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Top court rejects 2 Kurdish politicians’ applications claiming unlawful arrest in Kobani case

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Turkey’s Constitutional Court has rejected individual applications filed by two former lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) claiming that arrest warrants issued for them in the Kobani case –- while they were already behind bars -– were politically motivated and unlawful, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported on Monday.

The Kobani trial concerns the deadly Kobani protests in southeastern Turkey in 2014, in which the protestors expressed their support for Kurdish fighters in the Syrian town of Kobani while accusing Ankara of failing to provide adequate help and of supporting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which had laid siege to the town.

The top court found both of the individual applications by Aysel Tuğluk and Sebahat Tuncel “inadmissible” without examining the claims, citing the execution of the politicians’ previous arrest warrants issued for other crimes, DW said, adding that the decision showed that the court refrains from examining the legality of second arrest warrants issued for individuals who are in pre-trial detention.

“Although there is an arrest warrant issued for the aforementioned crimes, it is not possible for the applicant to be physically deprived of her liberty due to the [second] detention order. As a result, no interference was made with the applicant’s right to personal freedom and security regarding the arrest warrant, which was the subject of the application,” the court said in its reasoned decision on May 18.

Tuğluk was arrested on Dec. 29, 2016, when she was deputy co-chair of the pro-Kurdish HDP, along with seven other Kurdish opposition politicians. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of serving as an executive of a terrorist organization and taking orders from Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the US.

She was arrested again by an Ankara court on October 12, 2020 as part of an investigation into the Kobani protests.

Tuncel was detained on Nov. 4, 2016 while protesting earlier detentions of then-HDP members, including the party’s former co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, and was sentenced to 15 years for spreading terrorist propaganda and for membership in the PKK in 2019. The verdict was overturned by a regional appeals court.

She was also sentenced in 2020 to 11 months, 20 days for calling President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan an enemy of Kurds and women in a speech in 2016, comments one of her lawyers defended as legitimate criticism of a political opponent.

Tuncel was arrested again as part of the Kobani investigation on Oct. 12, 2020.

The Kobani case, in which the defendants are 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 ISIL offensive in 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.

Twenty-eight of the 108 Kurdish politicians who are standing trial in the Kobani case for their alleged roles in the deadly 2014 protests are currently in jail, including Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, also a former co-chairperson of the HDP.

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