Turkey’s top court says jailed Kurdish leader's rights to freedom violated

Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled that the lengthy imprisonment of Selahattin Demirtaş, a former leader of the country's main pro-Kurdish party, violated his rights to freedom.

Demirtaş’s detention has exceeded a reasonable period, the court said in a decision published in the Official Gazette on Friday. He should be compensated financially, it said.

The Kurdish politician has been in prison since November 2016 for his alleged links to terrorism and faces multiple life sentences if found guilty. Demirtaş is among scores of Kurdish politicians who have been ousted from their positions or jailed on the same charges.

It was not immediately clear if the Constitutional Court’s decision would lead to Demirtaş’s release as prosecutors have begun another probe against him. Turkish courts have released prominent political figures and human rights leaders in recent years only for them to be jailed again, sometimes within hours, on other charges.

Demirtaş was co-leader of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), the second-biggest opposition party in Turkey’s parliament. He is known for his vocal criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and was a key contributor to the party’s successes, preventing Erdoğan’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) from winning a legislative majority in elections in 2015. The polls were re-run later the same year. The HDP's election performance in 2018 also prevented an AKP majority.

Turkey accuses Demirtaş and many other officials of the HDP of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (HDP), accusations they all deny. The PKK has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy for four decades in a conflict that has cost almost 40,000 lives. The group is labelled as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.