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Top Turkish court upholds jail sentence given to former HDP deputy Baluken

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Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals has upheld a jail sentence of seven-and-a-half years handed down to former pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy İdris Baluken on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, the T24 news website reported on Tuesday.

The prison sentence was given to Baluken, who has been behind bars since February 2017, by the Diyarbakır 8th High Criminal Court in January and was upheld by a regional appeals court in Gaziantep in May.

The Supreme Court of Appeals reviewed the Gaziantep Regional Appeals Court’s ruling due to an objection from Baluken’s lawyers and upheld the ruling.

The Diyarbakır also handed down a consecutive four year, seven month jail sentence on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda and violating the law on the right to free assembly. The sentences have also been upheld by the top court.

Turkey has stepped up its crackdown on Kurdish politicians in the past several years. Trustees have been appointed to dozens of municipalities in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast, while hundreds of local Kurdish politicians have been arrested on terrorism charges. There are currently hundreds of Kurdish politicians behind bars including the HDP’s former Co-chairs Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş.

In a similar development on Tuesday, a regional appeals court upheld Demirtaş’s four year, eight month prison sentence for disseminating terrorist propaganda.

Since the prison sentence is shorter than five years, Demirtaş cannot appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeals, rendering the regional court’s decision final unless he applies to the Constitutional Court or the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

The ECtHR on Nov. 20 ruled that Demirtaş’s pre-trial detention from a different case had gone on longer than could be justified.

However a local court on Nov. 30 refused to release Demirtaş and decided to ask Turkey’s Justice Ministry whether the ECtHR ruling was final.

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