Turkish court rules to release former mayor, 3 others in Kobani trial

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A Turkish court on Tuesday ruled for the release from pretrial detention of four Kurdish politicians, including a former mayor, defendants in a trial concerning deadly protests in southeastern Turkey in 2014, Turkish media outlets reported.

The third hearing in the trial of 108 Kurdish politicians, 28 of whom are currently in jail, including former pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-leaders Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, was held at the Sincan Prison Complex in Ankara on Tuesday. The court ruled for the release of former Kars Mayor Ayhan Bilgen and politicians Berfin Özgü Köse, Can Memiş and Cihan Erdal from pretrial detention. They will be subject to judicial supervision and a travel ban.

Bilgen was removed from office by an Interior Ministry decision in January 2020 on terrorism charges, similar to dozens of other democratically elected Kurdish mayors.

The case against current and former members of the HDP stems from one of the darker episodes of the decade-long Syrian war.

Thirty-seven people died in violent demonstrations against the Turkish army’s inaction in the face of an Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) offensive against the largely Kurdish northern Syrian town of Kobani in 2014.

Demirtaş had called for street protests in support of Kurdish fighters in Kobani while accusing Ankara of failing to provide adequate help to the town and of supporting ISIL.

The HDP accuses the government of provoking the deaths.

The 3,500-page indictment, drafted more than six years after the protests, was submitted to the Ankara 22nd High Criminal Court in December 2020 and accepted in January 2021. The defendants face various charges related to the protests that include 37 counts of homicide and disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the state.

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