[JURIST] A Turkish court on Friday ordered the release of 16 individuals detained on accusations of having links to Kurdish militants. Busra Ersanli [personal website, in Turkish], a professor from Istanbul's Marmara University, and 15 other individuals will be released after having been detained by local authorities [Reuters report] for allegedly being involved with the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], which is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, US and the European Union. Around 200 additional individuals accused of coup-plotting and terrorism are still in detention, and a court ruling addressing the continued detention is not expected until the end of this month. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan [official profile, in Turkish] has joined criticism of the courts for the use of pre-trial detentions and for using their positions to stifle dissent among academics and journalists, even as hundreds of defendants have spent years in detention without approaching verdicts. Ersanli declined accusations of associating with the PKK. Although released, each of the 16 individuals is still slated to stand trial.
Friday's order is seen as one of the first effects of the legal reform that took place in the recent months. In June Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website] announced [JURIST report] its plan to present to the country's parliament before its recess a reform package including the proposed abolition of special courts. One of the most prominent cases before the special authority courts is the case of the Ergenekon [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] network. In January retired Turkish general Ilker Basbug, formerly the leader of all of Turkey's armed forces, was arrested [JURIST report] for his alleged involvement with the network. The group was accused of having planned to assassinate prominent members of Turkey's Christian and Jewish minority groups, blame Islamic terrorists for the deaths and use this to delegitimize the ruling AKP. The Ergenekon investigation has been criticized for its alleged purpose of silencing AKP's opponents and imposing Islamic principles [JURIST report].