ISTANBUL (Dispatches) – Lawyers applied on Wednesday for Selahattin Demirtas, former leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), to be released from jail after a court ruled he was eligible to be set free, an HDP source said.
Demirtas, one of Turkey’s best known politicians, has been in jail for almost three years and faces several legal cases, mainly on terrorism charges.
A Turkish court last week ruled that he should be released as the trial continues in the main case against him, in which prosecutors are seeking a jail sentence of up to 142 years.
But Demirtas’ release was blocked because he had been sentenced to four years and eight months in jail last September over comments he made in a speech in 2013.
The HDP source said Demirtas’ lawyers had applied for the three years he has spent in jail to be discounted from his existing sentence, which would make him eligible to be released on parole.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has urged Turkey to process his legal case swiftly, saying his pre-trial detention has gone on longer than could be justified. A Turkish court last November rejected an appeal for his release.
Ankara accuses the HDP of ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey and is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union, the United States and Turkey. The HDP denies such links.
In another development in Turkey, a court on Wednesday acquitted an Austrian student, activist and journalist of terrorism charges and lifted his travel ban, according to his lawyer, who called his detainment last year "unjust and unlawful.”
Max Zirngast was accused of being a member of a leftist terrorist organization based on a number of articles he wrote about Turkey, and on demonstrations in which he took part while in the country.
A political science student who writes for the far-left online publication Re:volt, Zirngast had been jailed for some three months last year before his trial began. The arrest a year ago had prompted former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to demand an explanation from Ankara.
Lawyer Murat Yilmaz told Reuters on Wednesday the court had acquitted Zirngast of the charges and lifted a travel ban that was imposed in December.
"Max had no links to any illegal organization but we couldn’t explain this to the prosecutors. They did not want to understand,” he said. "Justice was served today but Max’s detention and arrest were unjust and unlawful.”
Three others, who were being tried in the same case, were also acquitted, the lawyer said.
The leader of Turkey’s opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas