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Turkey drafts new indictment against jailed Kurdish leader

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Turkish prosecutors have drafted an indictment for 108 people, including jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, in connection to street protests in the country’s Southeast in 2014 that claimed the lives of 37 people, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday.

The Turkish prosecutors’ move came shortly after the European Court of Human Rights ruled last week that Turkey release Demirtaş — already charged with terrorism-related offenses — saying the justification for his four years in prison was a cover for limiting pluralism and debate.

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office is seeking punishment for the 108 suspects on various charges including 37 cases of homicide and disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the state, according to Anadolu.

In early October a Turkish court ordered the pre-trial detention of 17 people, including senior pro-Kurdish opposition members, in connection with the Kobani protests in October 2014, which led to the deaths of 37 people.

At the time Demirtaş called for street protests in support of Kurdish fighters in the Syrian town of Kobani while accusing Ankara of failing to provide adequate help to Kobani and of supporting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which had laid siege to the town.

The protests later morphed into fierce clashes between pro and anti-Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) groups in which 53 people were killed.

The PKK is designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US. It took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984, and more than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

Demirtaş, who was the co-chairperson of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) when he was arrested in November 2016, has been behind bars since then despite a decision from the ECtHR in November 2018 that ruled Demirtaş’s pre-trial detention was a political act and called for his release. Turkish courts refused to implement the European court’s ruling, and a regional appeals court in Turkey subsequently upheld a prison sentence given to Demirtaş for disseminating terrorist propaganda.

Commenting on the latest ECtHR ruling about Demirtaş, Turkish President and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the rights court’s ruling was an act of hypocrisy and that the court cannot make rulings on behalf of Turkish courts.

Demirtaş was an outspoken critic of Erdoğan before he was jailed. He ran in the presidential elections of 2014 and 2018 as a rival to Erdoğan. Demirtaş conducted his election campaign from jail for the 2018 election.

Erdoğan has accused of Demirtaş of being a “terrorist” due to his alleged links to the PKK and has slammed calls for his release.

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