Jailed Kurdish deputy risks seat in parliament

Jailed Kurdish deputy risks seat in parliament

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Jailed Kurdish deputy risks seat in parliament

Republican People’s Party deputy Ferit Mevlüt Aslanoğlu (C) protests Peace and Democracy Party lawmaker Altan Tan (L) for his remarks on the single-party rule. AA photo

Independent deputy Kemal Aktaş, elected from prison on the ticket of a bloc backed by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), risks losing his parliamentary seat after being handed down a two-year jail sentence for “disseminating terrorist propaganda.”

Parliament has not yet received a formal notification of the ruling, Parliament’s Secretary-General İrfan Neziroğlu told the Hürriyet Daily News. The sentence may strip Aktaş of his parliamentary seat as it makes him ineligible for deputyship. He would lose his seat as soon as the ruling is read out in the General Assembly.

“Parliament cannot afford such a development. The announcement of the ruling should have been postponed to the end of this Parliament’s term,” BDP deputy group chair Hasip Kaplan said yesterday.

He argued that there was no legal obstruction to Aktaş’s election at the time of the polls and that he could not now be tripped of his seat. Under Article 83 of the Constitution, the execution of sentences against parliamentary members is suspended until their deputyship comes to an end.

BDP-backed independent lawmaker Levent Tüzel also argued that the implementation of the ruling against Aktaş should be suspended until the end of the legislative term and urged Parliament to lift restrictions on free speech.

Aktaş was elected from prison as an independent from Van in last year’s elections. He is awaiting trial for involvement in the Kurdistan Communities’ Union (KCK), the alleged urban wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Due to a previous conviction, he is banned from being member of any political party until 2014.

A Diyarbakır court recently sentenced him for spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization, the PKK, over a speech he made at a 2006 Nevruz festival. The Appeals Court upheld the sentence. Even though Aktaş had gained judicial immunity as a parliamentary deputy, his trial continued because the charges pertained to “crimes against the state” which are exempt from parliamentarian privileges. The court has to send the ruling to Parliament via the Justice Ministry and then the Prime Minister’s Office.

In a separate development yesterday, squabbles erupted in Parliament after BDP deputy Altan Tan described the single-party rule in the early years of the Republic as a “Kemalist dictatorship.” Deputies of both the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) were infuriated. Tan refused to apologize, saying he did not insult any historic person but made a “political assessment” about the time.

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