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Turkish court rejects release of detained Kurdish lawmakers

The Turkish court in Diyarbakir on Monday rejected bids to be released from pre-trial detention by two members of the parliament for the Kurdish Peace and Democratic Party (BDP), Gulser Yildirim and Ibrahim Ayhan. Yildirim and Ayhan have been detained [Reuters report] since 2010 when they were each charged with links to the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) [party website]. This decision came after Turkey's top court ruled [Turkish Weekly report] that the long-term detention of another member of parliament of the opposing party pending trial was in contradiction to the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey [text, PDF]. In this ruling, the top court promised to act in accordance with the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website]. The leaders of the PKK claim that the denial of the release was political and disregarded the public will as the decision occurred in the mainly Kurdish southeast region. The BDP called the ruling a "legal scandal." The government responded that the judiciary is independent in their decisions.

Turkey has recently received criticism [JURIST report] regarding human rights, particularly following the violent protests that began in Istanbul this summer. In June the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged [JURIST report] the Turkish government to ensure the rights of its citizens to assemble freely and in a peaceful manner. The PKK is considered [JURIST report] a terrorist group by the Turkish government, the EU and the US. In 2012 a Turkish court ordered [JURIST report] the release of 16 individuals detained on accusations of having links to Kurdish militants. In 2012, when the individuals were released, around 200 others remained in detention for accusations of coup-plotting and terrorism. The BDP was created [JURIST report] on the basis of the Democratic Society Party, which was banned [JURIST report] by Turkey's Constitutional Court [official website, in Turkish] in December 2009 because the party was cooperating with the PKK.

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