Turkish police arrest three opposition lawmakers

Turkish police have arrested three lawmakers from opposition parties after the Grand National Assembly decided to strip them of their parliamentary immunity.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish police arrested three lawmakers from opposition parties on Thursday after the Grand National Assembly decided to strip them of their parliamentary immunity earlier in the day.

Two of the arrests came as a result of the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issuing an arrest warrant for Kurdish opposition officials.

“I am being arrested,” Hakkari lawmaker Leyla Guven from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) wrote in Turkish on her Twitter account on Thursday evening. “Resistance is life,” she added in Kurdish, a revolutionary slogan of the Kurdish movement in Turkey.

Enis Berberoglu, a parliament member from Istanbul with the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), and another HDP member from Diyarbakir, Musa Farisogullari, were also taken into custody.

“Turkey’s parliament has removed our MPs Leyla Güven and Farisoğulları’s parliamentary membership in an unlawful step,” the official Twitter account of the HDP said on Thursday. “Güven and Farisoğulları represent the will of millions. Revocation of their parliamentary seats will not intimidate us and our peoples!”

The decision to revoke their immunity was announced in parliament after appeals courts upheld Berberoglu’s conviction for disclosing government secrets and the convictions of both Guven and Farisogullari for being members of a “terrorist organisation,” reported Reuters.

Berberoglu was earlier accused of leaking videos of the main Turkish intelligence service (MIT) supplying weapons to a Syrian militant group in the pro-opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper in 2015.

Leyla Guven, a long-time veteran of the Kurdish movement in Turkey, led a months-long hunger strike from December 2018 to May 2019 in prison to protest the Turkish government’s isolation policy on the jailed founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan. 

Read More: Kurdish prisoners, MP in Turkey end hunger strike after Ocalan's call   

Guven is set to serve six years and three months in prison, while Farisogullari faces a nine-year sentence.

Louis Fishman, an assistant professor at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, wrote on social media that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used to pride itself on “the will of the people.” 

“However, since municipal elections last year, Turkey has removed numerous HDP mayors. Now two HDP MPs, Leyla Güven and Musa Farisoğulları, and a CHP MP, Enis Berberoğlu, have been stripped of right to serve in the parliament.” 

Read More: EU rapporteur criticizes Turkey’s continued crackdown on Kurdish party   

Dr. Aykan Erdemir, a former Turkish parliamentarian and now a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Kurdistan 24 that the revoking of the membership of three opposition lawmakers and their subsequent arrest, “is the latest example of Erdogan’s utter disregard for the ballot box and his ongoing power grab.”

“These developments are yet another reminder that the Turkish president’s targeting of the opposition will not be limited to the pro-Kurdish HDP, but will also include the entire opposition.” 

“It is ironic that Erdogan who constantly criticizes Turkey’s legacy of coups and military-bureaucratic tutelage has become the main architect of a civilian coup, as he has removed dozens of elected officials, including lawmakers, mayors, and city councilors from office within the last two years.” 

Dr. Erdemir added that as “Erdogan and his far-right partner (MHP leader) Bahceli marches full force toward authoritarianism they are likely to criminalize other opposition figures and dissidents, further eliminating Turkey’s shrinking democratic space.” 

“This is an ill-advised tactic, which will push dissidents toward militant groups at the expense of legal democratic channels.”

Editing by John J. Catherine