HDP deputy’s condolence visit to bomber’s family ignites immunity debate
DHA photoA member of parliament’s visit of condolence to the family of the suicide bomber who killed 29 people in Ankara on Feb. 17 has fueled debates on the prospects of lifting the parliamentary immunity of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputies, with the main opposition party raising the stakes and calling for the removal of all parliamentary immunities.
In harsh criticism against Tuğba Hezer, a HDP deputy from the eastern province of Van who recently visited the family of the bomber in her constituency, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan repeatedly called for the lifting of parliamentary immunity for HDP deputies.
“I expect much more sensitivity from our political parties on these images which break our nation’s heart and aggravate their grief. These summaries of proceedings should not languish away and get dusty on the shelves of parliament; its requirement should be fulfilled,” Erdoğan said on Feb. 24.
Consequently, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu stated his government and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) were ready to take “necessary steps by law and parliament” against this act, which he said could not be “legitimized.”
“In no democratic country in the world can a condolence [visit] be held for a murderer who carried out a terror act, and parliamentarians do not attend such a condolence [visit]. Nobody can justify and legitimize this,” Davutoğlu told reporters on Feb. 25 during a visit to Konya in Central Anatolia. “Necessary steps will be taken by law and parliament,” he said.
Meanwhile, the main opposition party has responded to Erdoğan’s call by raising the stakes and proposing the complete removal of parliamentary immunities in line with an approach they have long favored.
Özgür Özel, the deputy parliamentary group leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), recalled on Feb. 25 that there were many such summaries of proceedings on lawmakers of the ruling AKP and repeated their party’s call for the removal of all immunities.
“If the dusty files are taken down from the shelf, [the people] who would be victimized by this to the greatest extent would be Mr. President’s political fellows,” Özel said at a press conference, after journalists referred to the remarks delivered by Erdoğan a day before.
The CHP has 134 seats and there are 135 summaries of proceedings against these deputies, Özel said, emphasizing that none of these cases were related to disgraceful offenses. However, there are more than 350 summaries of proceedings against 317 deputies of the AKP in relation with disgraceful offenses, he said.
“Bring it on. Immunity is for ‘the rostrum.’ Let’s lift all immunities except this one for everybody,” he said.
Previously, despite not mentioning parliamentary immunity, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu had “condemned” Hezer with strict remarks.
“Going to the condolence tent set up for the terrorist is not right and is treason against this country,” Kılıçdaroğlu said on Feb. 23. “We are condemning and not accepting it,” he said.
In a speech delivered on the same day, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli also deplored the setting up of “a condolence tent for the terrorist without any embarrassment.”
The HDP, meanwhile, argued Hezer’s visit should not be considered an approval of the Ankara attack, underlining that they have from the beginning condemned the attack.
“Sharing the grief of those left behind regardless of those who died doesn’t mean approval,” HDP spokesperson Ayhan Bilgen told Russian radio channel RS FM on Feb. 23.
“Funeral ceremonies are about the grief of those left behind. It shouldn’t be viewed as approving that act and remain indifferent to grievances of those in Ankara,” he said, noting they also paid a visit to the scene of the attack in Ankara as a human rights delegation.
Both the government and Erdoğan frequently accuse the HDP of having links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and supporting terrorist acts.
The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a splinter group from the PKK, claimed the Feb. 17 attack, saying it was revenge for operations conducted by the Turkish military in the country’s southeast. The Turkish government, however, has insisted that Syria’s Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia were behind the attack, planned as a joint operation with the PKK.
The condolence ceremony was brought to the public’s attention following Hezer’s visit, as the bomber’s photographs were hung on the walls of the apartment with a flag of the PKK in the background of one of the pictures, according to previous reports by Doğan News Agency.
An investigation was launched into Hezer’s visit by the Van Chief Prosecutor’s Office.
Another investigation was launched against Hezer for her speech delivered on Feb. 15 following a march that took place on the 17th anniversary of the capture of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the PKK.
If the prosecutor’s office decides the accusations are proven on legal grounds, it would demand Hezer’s parliamentary immunity to be lifted with regard to the Turkish constitution’s 83rd article.