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Published: Saturday January 4, 2014 MYT 10:35:01 PM
Updated: Saturday January 4, 2014 MYT 10:35:53 PM

Turkish court orders release of Kurdish lawmakers accused of militant links

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - A Turkish court ordered the release from jail on Saturday of three Kurdish lawmakers, in addition to two freed on Friday, who are being tried for links to militants in a potential fillip to a fragile peace process.

The court rulings go some way to addressing criticism from the European Union and rights groups over Turkey's lengthy detentions for defendants on trial.

A judge in the main south-eastern city of Diyarbakir ruled in favour of freeing Selma Irmakand and Faysal Sariyildiz, Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) MPs, and independent Kemal Aktas after the constitutional court said their imprisonment violated their rights as elected officials.

On Friday a Diyarbakir court ordered the release of Gulser Yildirim and Ibrahim Ayhan who won seats for the BDP in a 2011 election but have been held on remand for several years accused of supporting Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) armed rebels.

The PKK, , launched its separatist insurgency 28 years ago and more than 40,000 people have since died.

The PKK, seen as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union, took up arms in 1984 with the aim of carving out a separate state in the southeast. But they have more recently changed their demands to greater autonomy and cultural and political rights within Turkey.

A PKK ceasefire has largely held since March, but the group halted withdrawal of its fighters to bases in northern Iraq, frustrated at what it says is the slow pace of reform.

The release of the five MPs could see them take their parliamentary oaths, possibly helping invigorate peace talks between Ankara and the PKK.

(Writing by Dasha Afanasieva)

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