Jailed Kurdish leader’s release blocked by court order for rearrest

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A man holds a picture of Selahattin Demirtaş as people gather outside Bakirkoy courthouse in Istanbul on January 12, 2018 in support of the jailed co-chair of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE

The release from a Turkish jail of the former leader of the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was blocked after a court on Friday evening ordered his arrest on new terrorism-related charges, the HDP said, according to Reuters.

One of Turkey’s best known politicians, Selahattin Demirtaş has been in jail for almost three years and faces several other legal cases, mainly on terrorism charges, which he denies. He could be sentenced to 142 years in prison in the main case against him.

A Turkish court ruled earlier this month that he should be released while the main trial continues, and the HDP said Demirtaş’s lawyers had on Friday applied for his release on parole.

Prosecutors then launched a new investigation into him and the other former co-leader of the party and requested their arrest, Demirtaş said.

“The decision to re-arrest Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ is the massacring of the principles of universal law once again,” the HDP said on Twitter, following the court ruling.

The prosecutor’s office in Ankara was not immediately available to comment.

The independence of Turkey’s judiciary has been hotly debated in recent years, especially since a crackdown on the judicial system and other state bodies following an abortive coup in July 2016 and after the country switched to an executive presidential system in June of last year.

“There is no judiciary, no justice, no law, no judges. Not just for us, for none of you,” Demirtaş had earlier tweeted, announcing that the new investigation had been launched.

Critics say the courts are under the influence of politics. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling party have repeatedly said the judiciary is independent and makes its own decisions.

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