Turkish opposition MPs detained, removed from positions

The move paves the way for MPs' imprisonment on trumped up espionage and terrorism charges.
Friday 05/06/2020
Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Musa Farisogullari takes part in a protest against the detention of local politicians in Diyarbakir, Turkey, last October. (Reuters)
Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Musa Farisogullari takes part in a protest against the detention of local politicians in Diyarbakir, Turkey, last October. (Reuters)

ISTANBUl - In Ankara's continued crackdown on democratically elected MPs and mayors, Turkish police on Thursday detained three opposition lawmakers after parliament removed them from their positions, triggering furious charges that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government is seeking to further consolidate authoritarian rule.

Those stripped of their status were Leyla Guven and Musa Farisogullari from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and the Republican People's Party's (CHP) Enis Berberoglu.

"This disregards the national will. We will continue the democratic fight to obtain justice, rights and law," CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu wrote on Twitter.

"This is the trampling and theft of the will of the voters and the Kurdish people," HDP deputy Saruhan Oluc said in a speech in parliament.

The move lifts their parliamentary immunity, paving the way for their imprisonment as courts have previously sentenced them on espionage or terror-related charges.

Farisogullari and Guven said on Twitter they were detained hours after the removal of their parliamentary mandates.

Farisogullari said he was taken into police custody on the way from Diyarbakir in southeast Turkey to Ankara where he planned to visit the party headquarters.

Guven, who launched a hunger strike in 2018 to end jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan's isolation, said she was also taken into custody in Diyarbakir.

"Resistance means living," she tweeted in Kurdish.

CHP MP Enis Berberoglu was detained in Istanbul, the party's deputy leader Tuncay Ozkan announced on Twitter.

Earlier the session in parliament was tense and the move to oust the MPs provoked uproar as opposition MPs banged their fists on their desks and called for unity against what they described as "fascism."

Kilicdaroglu denounced the move against Berberoglu as yet another step in Erdogan's continuing crackdown on the opposition since a failed 2016 coup against the president.

"We will keep up with the struggle for democracy in order to restore justice, rights and law," Kilicdaroglu tweeted.

The Kurdish HDP party tweeted to denounce the ouster of its MPs Guven and Farisogullari as an "unlawful step," using the hashtag #MeclisteDarbeVar (There is a coup in the parliament).

"Guven & Farisogullari represent the will of millions. Revocation of their parliamentary seats will not intimidate us and our peoples!" the party said.

In 2019, the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the prison sentences given to the pair on charges of membership of the outlawed Kurdish militants listed as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.

The government accuses the HDP of links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) -- an armed group which has waged a bloody insurgency against the state since 1984.

Berberoglu was allowed to walk free in 2018 following 16 months in an Istanbul prison after winning election to parliament in the June 24, 2018 snap election but will now return to complete his sentence.

"It is not a surprise decision for me," Berberoglu said earlier in the day before he was taken into custody.

Ruling party lawmaker Cahit Ozkan dismissed the accusations against his AKP.

He said the ouster of the three MPs were in line with parliamentary procedure, saying there were court verdicts against them despite pending appeals at the constitutional court.

According to Yavuz Baydar, editor-in-chief of Ahvalnews.com specialising in Turkish affairs, "devastating measures are employed against the HDP."

He pointed out last March, that there are more than 100 subpoenas against HDP's 62 deputies, all on terrorism charges.

"Erdogan is determined to break the backbone of the HDP’s rather solid structures and continue to conduct, to the very end, what could be defined as 'ethnic cleansing' in Turkish politics," said Baydar.

The crackdown on Erdogan's opponents continues at the local level. Ankara has appointed trustees to 31 municipalities won by the HDP in March 2019 local elections. No less than 21 democratically elected co-mayors were arrested, in addition to the five detained on March 23.