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Top court finds no rights violation in lengthy pretrial detention of Kurdish politician

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Turkey’s Constitutional Court has found no rights violation in the five-year pretrial detention of a Kurdish politician, which it said had lasted for only three years, one month, describing the measure as proportionate, the Mezopotamya news agency reported.

The court’s ruling concerns Figen Yüksekdağ, who was arrested along with a number of other Kurdish politicians in November 2016, in a sweeping crackdown on the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Yüksekdağ, who was the party’s co-chairperson at the time, has been in jail since then along with then-co-chairperson Selahattin Demirtaş. They are facing terrorism charges in several trials, which many say are politically motivated.

Although Yüksekdağ has been in jail for more than five years, the court subtracted an 18-month jail sentence handed down to her in 2018 on terrorism propaganda charges, putting the amount of time she spent in pretrial detention at three years, one month.

Yüksekdağ filed a petition at the top court on Feb. 26, 2021, claiming that her rights to liberty and security were violated because her pretrial detention was not lawful and exceeded a reasonable period of time and that her objections to her arrest were not examined on a timely basis.

The court found the duration of the politician’s pretrial detention proportionate on the grounds that there was strong evidence of her having committed a crime in the investigation files.

The Constitutional Court’s decision came at a time when the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled on Tuesday that Turkey’s lifting of the parliamentary immunity of 40 HDP lawmakers including Yüksekdağ and Demirtaş in 2016 and their being put on trial contravened the constitution and was a violation of their freedom of expression.

The court ordered Turkey to pay damages to the politicians that amount to a total of some 200,000 euros.

Yüksekdağ is also one of 108 Kurdish politicians who are standing trial over deadly protests in southeastern Turkey in 2014, known as the Kobani trial.

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.

In the 3,500-page indictment, drafted more than six years after the protests and accepted by the court 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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