Turkish court upholds jail terms for HDP’s Demirtaş, Önder

Turkish court upholds jail terms for HDP’s Demirtaş, Önder

Turkish court upholds jail terms for HDP’s Demirtaş, Önder

A Turkish court on Dec. 4 upheld the prison sentences of opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) former co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş and its former lawmaker Sırrı Süreyya Önder.

In September, Demirtaş was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison and Önder to three years and six months after they were convicted of “spreading terrorist propaganda.”

Lawyers of the opposition members had appealed against the sentences.

Around a dozen HDP lawmakers are currently in prison pending trial for terrorism-related offenses after their parliamentary immunities were lifted in May 2016.

The Turkish government has repeatedly accused the HDP, the third largest party in parliament, of having links to the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the U.S.

The decision, which was announced on Twitter by his lawyer Mahsuni Karaman, follows a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Nov. 20 that demanded Turkey to release Demirtaş, who is facing multiple criminal proceedings.

The Strasbourg-based ECHR ruled Demirtaş’s imprisonment had been aimed at “stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate,” calling for his release from the pre-trial detention.

Karaman said the ruling had given Turkish authorities an opportunity to “easily rule to release [Demirtaş] in the case where he remains under arrest and say, ’look we followed the ECHR decision’.”

According to local media reports, the Turkish court’s Dec. 4 ruling changed Demirtaş’s status from an arrested defendant to a convict, rendering the ECHR ruling obsolete as it had focused on his pre-trial detention.

The ruling by Istanbul Regional Court’s 2nd Penal Chamber has also closed the legal path for Demirtaş’s lawyers to make a final appeal in Turkey’s Court of Cassation as the law stipulates for convictions with jail sentences shorter than five years.

“Demirtaş will remain a hostage as the conviction of four years and eight months is confirmed,” Karaman said.

Meanwhile, in a separate case, the Court of Cassation upheld on Dec. 4 the conviction of former HDP lawmaker İdris Baluken on charges of “being a member of an armed terrorist organization.”

Baluken was previously sentenced to seven years and six months in prison by a local court.