European Parliament’s Piri criticizes bill to scrap MPs’ immunity as ‘historic mistake’
AKP lawmakers laugh as they cast their votes during the second round of voting in parliament on May 20.Kati Piri, the rapporteur for Turkey at the European Parliament, criticized Turkey’s parliament for its decision to approve a controversial constitutional amendment to strip dozens of deputies of their parliamentary immunity on May 20, calling it a “historic mistake.”
“Dark days in Turkey. Silencing elected MPs of the opposition HDP [Peoples’ Democratic Party] is a major leap away from democratic standards,” Piri wrote on her Twitter account, while sharing a picture of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers casting their votes in laughter.
Turkey’s parliament approved a bill to lift lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution, a constitutional change that the HDP has warned could see its parliamentary presence all but wiped out.
In the third and final vote in a secret ballot on May 20, 376 MPs in the 550-seat parliament backed the plan to lift MPs’ immunity from prosecution, a high enough level of support to change the constitution directly without needing to hold a referendum.
The removal of parliamentary immunity has a precedent in Turkey. In March 1994, the immunities of four deputies of the now-defunct pro-Kurdish Democratic Labor Party (DEP) – a predecessor of the HDP – were lifted on charges of supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Previously, current HDP deputy Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Selim Sadak and late Orhan Doğan were elected for the now-dissolved Social Democratic Populist Party (SHP) before splitting off to form the DEP. They were all dragged out of parliament to serve long jail sentences after their immunities were revoked.