Turkey's Erdogan seeks to strip 21 Kurdish, opposition MPs of immunity

HDP Co-chairs Temelli and Buldan along with one CHP and 18 other pro-Kurdish lawmakers face trials, potential imprisonment and ouster from the Parliament.
author_image Rawa Barwari

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - The office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has, in this week alone, submitted 33 legal cases against 21 Kurdish and opposition lawmakers aimed at stripping them of their parliamentary immunity and paving the way for conviction, imprisonment, and ouster from their elected positions as a result of their individual politics.

Turkish state media said on Wednesday that among the MPs to be targeted by the judiciary were the two co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Pervin Buldan and Sezai Temelli who represent constituencies in Istanbul and the Kurdish province of Van, respectively.

No further details regarding the legal files' content were available on the public-funded Anadolu; however, other pro-government media reported that authorities had accused the lawsuits' subjects of affiliation with a "terrorist organization."

Other targeted MPs include Leyla Guven of Diyarbakir, who leads a hunger strike even after being released from jail in late January along with hundreds of other political prisoners, and Ahmet Shik of Istanbul, a former journalist known for his investigative work on Erdogan's administration and the movement of US-based Turkish Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen.

Additional lawmakers named in the proceedings were Remziye Tosun, Semra Guzel, Dersim Dag, Musa Farisogullari, and Salihe Aydeniz, all from Diyarbakir, Murat Sarisac and Muazzez Orhan of Van, Pero Dundar and Ebru Gunay of Mardin, Nuran Imir of Sirnak, Dirayet Dilan Tasdemir and Berdan Ozturk of Agri, Sait Dede of Hakkari, Mahmut Togrul of Gaziantep, Gulistan Kilic Kocyigit of Mus, and Meral Danis Bestas of Siirt.

The only non-HDP name on the list was that of People's Republican Party (CHP) lawmaker Saliha Sera Kadigil of Istanbul.

If the Parliament, dominated by Erdogan's Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its junior far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), moves ahead with stripping legal protections from their fellow HDP and CHP colleagues, the next steps of eviction from the assembly and subsequent prosecution and imprisonment appear highly likely. 

The move comes amid a controversial decision by Turkey's supreme electoral board to order a re-run of local elections in Istanbul where the CHP-led opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu won with de facto backing of the HDP against AKP's Binali Yildirim by a small margin of 13 thousand votes in late March.

The replacement election is set to take place on Jan. 23 as Erdogan and Yildirim accuse the opposition of "stealing votes" without providing proof and in the absence of any judiciary investigation into the allegations.

In the previous parliamentary term before the June 2018 general elections, the Turkish Parliament kicked out 11 Kurdish MPs in a period that began with the passing of a law in May 2016 that made lawmakers' prosecution possible.

During the same period, dozens of lawmakers were arrested and released multiple times, with eight of the former MPs, including top Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas, remaining in prison. 

Editing by John J. Catherine