Turkish court approves prison sentence of over 9 years for HDP deputy

Turkish court approves prison sentence of over 9 years for HDP deputy

Turkish court approves prison sentence of over 9 years for HDP deputy

A Turkish regional appeals court on May 23 approved a prison sentence of nine years and two months handed down by a local court to Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy İdris Baluken.

HDP Diyarbakır deputy Baluken was detained on Nov. 4, 2016. He was released on Jan. 30, 2017. However, upon an appeal against his release, he was re-jailed on Feb. 17, 2018.

The regional court in Gaziantep approved the prison sentence given by a local court to Baluken, who has also been jailed pending trial for 18 months for alleged “membership in a terrorist organization.”

The HDP is the second-largest opposition party in the Turkish Parliament.

The party’s former co-chairs Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş have been arrested on charges of “making terrorist propaganda” and “being a member of a terrorist organization.”

Demirtaş was presented as the HDP’s presidential candidate for the upcoming elections to be held on July 24 and the Supreme Board of Elections (YSK) officially approved his candidacy in an announcement on May 13.

A Turkish court rejected an appeal on May 21 for Demirtaş’s release, the party said, a month before snap parliamentary and presidential elections.

Afterward, the HDP candidate’s lawyers had taken the case to the upper court of Ankara 20th Heavy Penal Court, which again rejected an appeal for the former HDP chair’s release in a ruling on May 24. In its ruling, the court said there was “strong evidence” against Demirtaş that could be “tampered with,” Doğan News Agency has reported.

Demirtaş’s lawyer Mahsuni Karaman reacted against the May 24 ruling, saying there was no such evidence and all evidence against his client consisted of “recorded speeches and declarations.”

“I hope it hands down a ruling that would bear a torch on this dark political environment,” Karaman said, indicating he would take the issue to the Constitutional Court.

Demirtaş, who is a former human rights lawyer, is one of Turkey’s best-known politicians, winning votes beyond his core Kurdish constituency in 2015 elections. Prosecutors allege he and hundreds of other jailed HDP members have ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).