Turkish Parliament controversially OKs trial of deputies facing legal cases

Turkish Parliament controversially OKs trial of deputies facing legal cases

Turkish Parliament controversially OKs trial of deputies facing legal cases

DHA photo

The Turkish Parliament has approved a controversial constitutional amendment to lift the immunity of 139 MPs, with all eyes now turning to a judicial process that would see the arrest of deputies from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on terror-related charges and an anticipated wave of social unrest.

Some 376 out of 550 deputies voted in favor of the motion in the second and final vote on May 20, comfortably passing the required 367 majority to have it approved without the need to go to a referendum.

The first and second clauses of the amendment were accepted in the second round of voting, with 373 and 374 votes respectively.

Proposed by the 316-seat ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and heavily backed by the 40-seat Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the draft received 357 votes in the first round of vote as the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the HDP deputies did not vote in favor. 

However, it is believed that around 20 lawmakers from the CHP voted in favor of the motion in the second round in order not to cause a referendum that would jeopardize the societal order. 

“We have not taken a group decision in the first round and we have not in the second round either. From this point now, this has become the decision of the Parliament and not of individual lawmakers and political parties,” Özgür Özel, deputy parliamentary group leader of the CHP, told lawmakers after the approval of the motion. “There was no imposition on our lawmakers.”

Bülent Turan, deputy parliamentary group leader of the AKP, congratulated all lawmakers for the approval of the move and said some CHP lawmakers voted in favor of it because they were concerned about going to a referendum. “It’s not appropriate to compare today’s move with 1990s,” Turan said, in reference to the arrest of four Kurdish lawmakers after their immunities were removed at parliament.   

HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş repeated their decision that no HDP lawmaker would go voluntarily to the office of prosecutors to give testimony. 

HDP also said that it would take the issue to the Constitutional Court.

Just before the conclusion of the vote in parliament, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a speech in Black Sea province of Rize that the people did not want “criminal” lawmakers in the legislature, so he was expecting lawmakers vote in favor of the move.

Eyes on judicial process 

With the approval of the move, a legal process on 139 lawmakers with 682 different dossiers will begin after Erdoğan’s approval of the bill and its publication in the Official Gazette. The number of the dossiers will increase to 787 as the remaining 105 cases will be sent to parliament. More than 200 of these dossiers concern terror-related crimes, according to Justice Ministry officials.

According to the information gathered by legal experts and parliamentary administrators, the dossiers pending in parliament will first be sent back to the prosecutors through the office of the prime minister and the Justice Ministry. This process is expected to be concluded in 15 days. 

Around 200 prosecutors will be tasked with looking into the dossiers and classifying them according to the nature of the offense. Prosecutors will invite lawmakers to give their testimony and will decide to open cases against them after evaluating their defenses and the evidence provided. 

If the prosecutor believes that there is no need to open a case, he or she will abandon the legal process. But if there is reason to open a case, the prosecutor can demand an arrest warrant from the court, in line with the nature of the charges faced by the lawmaker.

Three party leaders have dossiers as well

With the approval of the draft, apart from lawmakers from the four parties, the chairs of three opposition parties risk being banned from politics in the event they are sentenced to more than one year in prison. 

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has 41 proceedings against him, HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş has 41 and the MHP’s Devlet Bahçeli has nine cases pending at parliament which will be sent to prosecutors to begin a judicial process. Neither the current leader of the AKP, Ahmet Davutoğlu, nor its leader-designate, Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım, have summary of proceedings against them in parliament.