Kurdish MP and HDP co-chair may lose parliamentary seat after top court approves sentence
Sabahat Tuncel (L) speaks to reporters at the commemoration event for the second anniversary of the Uludere (Roboski) massacre on Dec. 28, next to fellow HDP co-chair Ertuğrul Kürkçü.The co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Sebahat Tuncel may lose her parliamentary seat after the Supreme Court of Appeals approved on Dec. 28 an eight-year sentence against her for membership in the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Elected from the Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) list during the 2011 general elections, Tuncel recently joined the HDP, an umbrella party formed by leftist movements and supported by the Kurds, along with two other prominent BDP lawmakers, Ertuğrul Kürkçü and Sırrı Süreyya Önder.
Tuncel may lose her parliamentary seat and immunity after the Supreme Court of Appeal’s eight-year, nine-month sentence is read out in the General Assembly, according to reports.
Tuncel noted the ruling came only two weeks after the court refused to release five deputies of the BDP, despite having approved the release of Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Mustafa Balbay.
“Kurdish lawmakers are not being released from jail. On the contrary, the ground is being prepared for new jailed Kurdish lawmakers. This means that it won’t be limited to me because there are other files at the Supreme Court of Appeals,” Tuncel said Dec. 28.
“If you ask me what Turkish politics will gain from this, it is clear: not much. Quite the contrary, this could further drag Turkey into a crisis and chaos,” she said.
The ruling triggered an outcry both from the BDP and HDP ranks. BDP co-chairs Gültan Kışanak and Selahattin Demirtaş released a statement describing the decision as an “attack on democracy.” Emphasizing that the decision was taken on the second anniversary of a massacre of 34 civilian villagers in Uludere (Roboski) in southeastern Turkey, the BDP heads said it further accentuated their loss of trust in the judiciary.
“The judiciary, which has not asked anyone responsible for the Roboski Massacre to give an account despite the passage of two years, is handing out sentences when it is a question of opposition politicians. This is the clearest indication of a double standard,” the statement said.
The HDP also said it would not remain silent about the ruling, adding that it constituted a major blow to the Kurdish peace process. “Justice in Turkey does not make decisions based on universal legal principles but on the political developments and balances in Turkey. The judiciary does not distribute justice, but injustice.”
An Istanbul court sentenced Tuncel last year to eight years and nine months in jail on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” on account of her travel to a PKK camp in northern Iraq in 2004.