3 pro-Kurdish BDP deputies released from prison

6 January 2014 /TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL – Three jailed pro-Kurdish deputies were released on Saturday after their lawyers demanded the lawmakers’ freedom following similar earlier rulings for three other jailed deputies.

The Constitutional Court ruled on Friday that the rights of Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputies Selma Irmak and Faysal Sarıyıldız as well as independent pro-Kurdish deputy Kemal Aktaş had been violated during their imprisonment.The lawyers for the deputies, who are suspected of involvement in the terrorist Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organization that includes the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), had appealed to the Diyarbakır 6th High Criminal Court, demanding their release. The court ruled to release jailed deputies Aktaş, Sarıyıldız and Irmak following a decision of the Diyarbakır 6th High Criminal Court to set free two other deputies, Gülser Yıldırım and İbrahim Ayhan, based on the Constitutional Court’s decision.

All these deputies had won seats in the 2011 elections but have been incarcerated since being accused of supporting the PKK/KCK. Their release could see them take their parliamentary oaths, helping to build confidence in peace talks between Ankara and the PKK aimed at ending a three-decades-long conflict in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish Southeast which has killed 40,000 people.

Mustafa Balbay, a deputy from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) who was convicted in the Ergenekon trial of plotting a coup against the government and was sentenced to 34 years in prison in August, was released in December based on a recent decision by the Constitutional Court that a long pretrial detention violates a prisoner’s rights. The İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court decided to release Balbay shortly after prosecutors asked the court to release him from prison.

Balbay was among 275 defendants including an ex-military chief, retired officers, academics, journalists and politicians convicted in August over an alleged plot to overthrow the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government. The lawyers for the BDP deputies had submitted a petition to the Diyarbakır Prosecutor’s Office asking that their clients also be released, citing the Balbay verdict and case.