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Kurdish Leader Gets Partial Reprieve from Turkish Court

A Turkish court ruled Monday that leading pro-Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas should be released during his ongoing trial, his party said, though he will remain in prison under a previous conviction.

The ruling is significant as it comes ahead of a hearing by the European Court of Human Rights later this month, which is expected to again criticize the long pre-trial detention of Demirtas, a founder of the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP).

The court in Sincan, near the capital Ankara, is hearing the main case against Demirtas on charges of “managing a terror organization, making propaganda for a terror group and inciting criminal acts”.

However, he was expected to remain behind bars, having been sentenced in December to four years and eight months for “terrorist propaganda”.

Demirtas, who was not present at Monday’s hearing, has been in prison since November 2016.

The charismatic politician, often dubbed the Kurdish Obama, was detained in the crackdown under the state of emergency that followed a failed coup in July of that year.

If found guilty in the main trial, he risks 142 years in prison.

Turkish authorities often accuse the HDP of links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.

Before his arrest Demirtas was considered one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s major rivals. He came in third in last year’s presidential election despite running from his prison cell.

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