HDP leader lays down gauntlet, calls for lifting of own immunity

HDP leader lays down gauntlet, calls for lifting of own immunity

HDP leader lays down gauntlet, calls for lifting of own immunity

Co-leader of Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş (R) speaks during a press conference on December 30, 2015 in Diyarbakır. AFP Photo

Amid rising calls for the parliamentary immunity of Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MPs to be lifted, HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş has said his party is ready for the lifting of immunity of all members of parliament.

“Our proposal for the constitution is already there. You could lift the immunity of all of us in one day. We will vote ‘yes.’ Lawmaker’s immunity should not exist beyond immunity within parliament,” Demirtaş said on Jan. 5 at a press conference at parliament. 

“It is said that the [Nationalist Movement Party] MHP will support it too,” he added, referring to remarks delivered by MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli earlier on Jan. 5 when he signaled his willingness to lift the immunity of lawmakers from the HDP.

“OK, we are ready too. Bring it with a single-article amendment. Let’s have the immunity of all lawmakers lifted,” Demirtaş said.

During a convention held late last month, the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), an association of Kurdish political organizations, released a declaration calling for self-rule in Turkey’s southeast, escalating political tensions at a time of renewed clashes between the security forces and outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants. 

Demirtaş was one of the participants in a two-day congress of Kurdish groups that called for more self-governance, during which he said “there will be a Kurdistan in the next century and it could include an independent state.” A prosecutor opened an investigation into Demirtaş on Dec. 28 over his call, while President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also said he supports criminal probes into HDP leaders over their comments about self-rule. 

“We are not worried about the lifting of immunities. We are only complaining about injustice and inequality. There is no use for anybody to needlessly use the immunity issue for blackmailing. The president has no authority on this issue, so his giving of instructions to the judiciary is a crime,” Demirtaş also said on Jan. 5.

Meanwhile, addressing a parliamentary group meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu did not touch upon the ongoing debate over immunity of HDP lawmakers. 

However, he called on the HDP to work within the “legitimate boundaries of politics,” instead of “acting as a spokesperson for the terrorist organization.”

“We are paving the way to express all kinds of opinions in parliament and everywhere in Turkey. But rather than using its right to do politics, the HDP hasn’t even embraced acting like a political party,” Davutoğlu said, claiming that the HDP was trying to “legitimize terrorist organizations.”

HDP co-chair Demirtaş was also reminded of remarks from Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş last week when he said “political bans cannot be a solution.”

“I know that Numan Kurtulmuş has a conscience on these issues. But this language of resolution should become the government’s official policy. The HDP reviews its flaws and mistakes; we are constantly discussing this matter,” he said.

Demirtaş was apparently referring to Kurtulmuş’s remarks when the AKP spokesman said “an extreme historical responsibility falls on the shoulders of the HDP,” adding that it must “conduct politics in a democratic style that will not harm the nation or its own voters.”