Turkey’s top court fines gov’t for arrest of 8 former pro-Kurdish party officials

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Turkey’s top court has ruled in favor of eight out of 11 former officials from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) who submitted individual applications to the court in 2017 claiming that their detention and arrest in late 2016 and early 2017 were unlawful, Turkish media reported on Thursday.

The Constitutional Court on Thursday said in its reasoned decision that the arrest of the eight HDP officials was unlawful and that their rights to personal liberty and security were violated, ordering the Turkish government to pay TL 40,000 ($5,020) to each of them in damages.

The HDP’s former İstanbul branch co-chairpersons, Doğan Erbaş and Aysel Güzel, and members Ali İpekli, Ayşe Karadağ, Feremez Erkan, Mehmet Tayyip Arslan, Muhittin Arslanboğa, Ramazan Çetinçakmak, Süleyman Başer, Süleyman Özcan and Kasım Oba, were detained on Dec. 12, 2016 as part of a terror investigation and arrested 25 days later. They submitted individual applications to the Constitutional Court on July 22, 2017.

Güzel, Arslanboğa, Başer, Karadağ, Özcan and Arslan were released Oct. 3, 2017, while Erkan, Çetinçakmak and İpekli were released later, on Jan. 9, 2018, and Erbaş and Oba were released Oct. 18, 2018.

The court also ruled that the rights of Oba, İpekli and Erbaş were not violated and that their claims were “unacceptable.”

The officials were detained as part of an operation launched against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a militant group that has waged a three-decade-long war against the Turkish state in southeastern Turkey.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its far-right ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), have long accused the HDP, the third-largest group in parliament and the newest party of the Kurdish political movement since its predecessors were shut down due to alleged terror links, of having ties to the PKK.

The HDP denies the accusations and says it is working to achieve a peaceful solution to Turkey’s Kurdish problem and is only coming under attack because of its strong opposition to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s 18-year rule.

Hundreds of HDP politicians, including the party’s former co-chairs, are behind bars on terrorism charges, while most of the 65 HDP mayors elected in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast in 2019 have been replaced by government-appointed trustees.

As part of the AKP’s years-long crackdown on the HDP, which intensified after a truce between the PKK and the government broke down in 2015 and grew even stronger after Erdoğan survived a failed coup attempt in 2016, a top Turkish prosecutor recently asked the Constitutional Court to shut down the pro-Kurdish party.

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