Three opposition MPs in Turkey removed from office and arrested

Three opposition MPs in Turkey removed from office and arrested

Three opposition MPs in Turkey had their parliamentary immunity revoked and were arrested on Thursday in a re-opening of the Government’s campaign against the democratic mandate. The announcement in parliament prompted shock, anger and protests among People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies. This latest disregard for the expression of the will of the people continues a pattern of disruption since 2016.

Two Kurdish elected representatives, Hakkari HDP MP Leyla Güven and Amed/Diyarbakır MP Musa Farisoğulları, had their parliamentary immunity stripped following finalised court decisions on their convictions of membership of a terrorist organisation in the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) case. Action against CHP MP Enis Berberoğlu follows his 2017 conviction for espionage on the grounds he provided footage to journalist Can Dündar, editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper, of Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MİT) trucks transporting weapons for Syria in 2014. Former Bismil (Diyarbakır) mayor Cemile Eminoğlu was also detained.

CHP leader Kenal Kilicdaroğlu wrote on twitter that the removal of parliamentary immunity and arrest of Berberoğlu “disregards the national will. We will continue the struggle for democracy in order to ensure justice, rights and law”. However, he spoke in detail only of the injustice done to his own party.

The HDP also responded on twitter, commenting: “This is what a coup is. It is undertaking a police raid against the house of a politician who is the representative of the voters’ will. It is vengefulness. You will not be able to intimidate those who say Berxwedan Jiyan (Resistance is Life).”

Ever since the HDP passed the 10% threshold and won its first seats in Parliament in June 2015, removing the Justice and Development Party (AKP) majority, President Erdoğan has targeted Kurdish elected representatives, HDP co-chairs (see here), members and activists with raids, detentions and convictions of terrorist offences.

A constitutional amendment of May 2016 led to the lifting of immunity of 154 MPs, among them 55 of the HDP’s 59 MPs. The Council of Europe’s highest body criticised the Turkish Government then for having “seriously undermined the democratic functioning and position of the parliament” and suspending local democracy in the Kurdish region (see here).

These new arrests further expose the Government’s bankrupt attitude to democracy and the popular mandate. The re-arrest of Leyla Güven, in particular, raises the stakes following her previous five-month hunger strike beginning in November 2018 alongside hundreds of other Kurdish political prisoners in protest at the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan.

Yesterday’s action was the first lifting of immunity in the current parliamentary session. With the AKP losing support amid a deepening economic crisis, the concern is that these new measures precede further, deeper restrictions on opposition political parties and electoral participation ahead of a snap election.