Turkey releases pro-Kurdish lawmaker as opposition chief slams 'unconstitutional' attack on MPs

Turkey releases pro-Kurdish lawmaker as opposition chief slams 'unconstitutional' attack on MPs
Three opposition lawmakers were stripped of their MP status and detained last week.
2 min read
10 June, 2020
Guven and other pro-Kurdish lawmakers have been accused of links to terrorism [Getty]
Turkish authorities on Tuesday released a pro-Kurdish politician stripped of her parliamentary immunity and jailed last week alongside two other lawmakers.

The arrest of Leyla Guven came as part of an ongoing crackdown against the opposition in Turkey, particularly targeting the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP).

The left-wing party has been subject to numerous government crackdowns since it first entered parliament in 2015, and repeatedly accused of having links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), proscribed as a terrorist group by Turkey, US and the EU.

Many of its members have been stripped of their parliamentary immunity and posts with some, including the party's former co-leaders, jailed.

HDP lawmaker Guven was stripped of her parliamentarian status and arrested last week alongside fellow HDP MP Musa Farisogullari and Enis Berberoglu, an MP for Turkey's largest opposition party.

Berberoglu was released one day later due to coronavirus containment measures, although his HDP counterparts were not afforded the same possibility.

The three were stripped of their MP status after an appeals court upheld exhisting criminal sentences against them.

Berberoglu was sentenced to nearly six years in prison for allegedly leaking secret documents to the press as part of a scandal that saw the government accused of illicitly providing weapons to armed Syrian groups. He was released by court ruling in 2018.

Guven and Farisogullari, on the other hand, have faced accusations of supporting a terrorist organisation.

Lawmakers and supports from the pro-Kurdish HDP are routinely accused of links to the PKK, a Kurdish militant group that has waged an on-off insurgency against the Turkish state since the early 1980s.

Government critics have condemned the move to strip the parliamentarians of their posts, arguing that their convictions were known before the state's electoral body permitted them to run in the most recent elections.

On Tuesday, the leader of Turkey's main opposition party slammed the move as "against the constitution".

"If you remove their deputyship, then why do the voters go to the polls?" Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP), asked parliament.

"Had the Supreme Election Council examined their [court files]? Yes. Had it approved them? Yes. Had it said they could run? Yes," he said.

While the HDP has pleged to publicly protest the move, Kilicaroglu has said he would not endorse a march that could "create tension and [be] open to provocation".

Pro-Kurdish politicians working in local government have also faced similar treatment, with 45 out of 65 HDP mayors dismissed from their posts since their election in March last year.

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