Nine opposition HDP lawmakers arrested, including co-chairs
DİYARBAKIR - ANKARANine lawmakers from Turkey’s opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), including its co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, were arrested on Nov. 4 in a probe that was launched against 14 of the party’s lawmakers over alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The arrests of Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ along with Mardin deputy Gülser Yıldırım and Hakkari deputy Selma Irmak came couple of hours after two Diyarbakır deputies, İdris Baluken and Nursel Aydoğan, as well as Şırnak deputy Leyla Birlik were arrested by local courts. Şırnak lawmaker Ferhat Encü and Hakkari lawmaker Abdullah Zeydan were also later arrested.
In raids that came early on Nov. 4, police teams detained 12 members of the party.
Faysal Sarıyıldız and Tuğba Hezer Öztürk, who were also sought for detention, escaped captures because they were abroad.
During the day-long legal proceedings, HDP deputies Ziya Pir, İmam Taşçıer and Sırrı Süreyya Önder were released on probation that included an overseas travel ban, with the former two being freed by prosecutors and the latter by a court. There are three deputies who are still under detention amid continuing proceedings.
The lawmakers’ detentions came upon the orders of the chief public prosecutors’ offices in Diyarbakır, Şırnak, Hakkari, Van and Bingöl, which took the action after the lawmakers did not show up to give testimony to officials over their summary of proceedings on charges of terror for alleged links to PKK.
The proceedings had come after probes were launched against a number of party deputies for their alleged actions carried out during the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır between Dec. 26 and 27, 2015, and the Oct. 6-8, 2014, Kobane events, as well as their alleged involvement in the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) events.
‘Representative of hundreds of thousands of voters’
Tension rose during detentions as police tried to force Baluken to get inside the police vehicle, while people around reacted to the incident.
“Get your hands off me! I represent thousands of votes. You can’t shove my head and take me like that,” said Baluken, before entering the police car and being detained.
The detained members gave a joint defense that was prepared when the immunity of the representatives were lifted by a parliamentary vote in June, the party said, underlining that they could only questioned by the people that elected them as their representatives.
“Only the people who have elected me can question me about my political activities,” the joint defense read.
“We are the elected representatives of the people. We represent the people who voted for us, not ourselves. I am standing in front of you as a parliamentary representative and a member of parliament with impunity. I will never allow anyone disrespect to the identity that I represent and the will of my people,” it said, while adding that they did not want “to be extras in a judicial theater play ordered by [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan.”
According to a written statement from the Directorate General of Press and Information of the Prime Ministry, the lawmakers were detained for failing to appear in response to summons by prosecutors asking for testimony in a terrorism propaganda case.
The constitutional immunity from prosecution was lifted for all parliamentarians in a vote in May, although the HDP was affected most severely by the move, with a large number of its MPs facing cases for alleged terrorist propaganda.
“As known, those who refuse to respond to summons by prosecutors asking for their testimony in probes and hence break the laws are taken into custody so as to take their testimony. The constitutional amendment on lifting the parliamentary immunity of parliament members passed with 376 votes at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in May without a need to hold a referendum,” read an announcement from Turkish authorities.
The Diyarbakır Chief Prosecutor’s Office said in a written statement that the detention and search warrants were issued due to “strong suspicions based on solid evidence.”
There was an ongoing investigation on accusations of “being a member of an armed terror organization and terrorist propaganda,” the statement said, adding that the political immunity of the lawmakers had been lifted by parliament.
‘Those involved in terror pay price’
Those who come with elections go with elections, but they should “pay the price” if they engage in “terror,” Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has replied to Republican People’s Party (CHP) Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in regard to the main opposition leader’s reaction against the detention of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputies.
“Politics cannot be a shield for committing a crime. Turkey is a state of law,” Yıldırım told journalists on Nov. 4, adding that HDP members should have given their testimonies when called to do so by Turkish state authorities.
“The superiority of the law is fundamental,” he added.
Yıldırım also said the internet connection issues were part of measures taken for security purposes and that they were temporary.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ meanwhile, criticized HDP lawmakers for not appearing to give testimony which left no any other means than summoning them by force.
“[The prosecutor] summons and they did not go; what other solution is left? The only means left is to summon them by force,” Bozdağ said Nov. 4.
“What should be criticized is not the justice, it is the ones who violate the constitution and state of law while saying they are respecting the law, [as well as violate] the necessity of the democratic state of law and the constitution by failing to heed the summons [of the prosecutors],” he said.
Bozdağ stated that everyone is equal before the law and that the MPs were taken within the scope of the law.
“What is happening is that Turkey is a state of law and everyone is equal before the law,” he said. “The law that is implemented for everybody is also implemented for the lawmakers. Why do you feel uncomfortable with equality?”
Strict security measures were taken around the HDP building in Ankara, with the police setting up barricades on the roads leading to the building and deploying water cannon.