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Former HDP lawmaker freed after 7 years in prison

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A former lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) who was jailed in a crackdown on the party in 2016 has been released from prison after serving his sentence, the party has announced.

HDP former deputy group chairman and Diyarbakır lawmaker İdris Baluken was released from Sincan Prison in Ankara on Wednesday where he had been jailed since November 2016, when dozens of other HDP politicians including the party’s then-co-chairpersons were also incarcerated on terrorism charges.

Baluken, who was tried by a high criminal court in Diyarbakır, was sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda and violating the law on the right to free assembly.

The HDP, which tweeted about Baluken’s release on Wednesday, said other party officials should be set free soon, too.

The lawmaker had been released from pre-trial detention on Jan. 30, 2017 but was sent to prison again 22 days later.

The Green Left Party (YSP), under whose banner the HDP will run in the parliamentary elections slated for May 14, also tweeted: “Our former deputy İdris Baluken, who was a political hostage, has been freed. Welcome back, esteemed deputy.”

The HDP, which faces a closure case, announced its decision last month to run in the elections under YSP banner to circumvent the risks that could emerge from its possible closure ahead of the elections.

Baluken’s advisor, Hasan Kılıç, posted a photo of him with the former deputy on Twitter, expressing his thanks to everyone who showed solidarity with the politician.

Baluken, a medical doctor by profession, wrote three books while in prison.

The HDP and its politicians frequently face terrorism charges and prison in Turkey due to their alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

The party denies the charges and says the legal attacks on its members are politically motivated.

The HDP is widely seen as the kingmaker in the May 14 presidential election.

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