In Turkey / Türkiye

By The Associated Press, Nov 6, 2016

Exiled journalist warns arrests mean end of country’s parliamentarian system

Parliamentary leaders of HDP party and supporters gather to protest repression, on Nov 6, 2016 in city of Diyarbakir, eastern Turkey (Ilyas Akengin, AFP-Getty Images)

Parliamentary leaders of HDP party and supporters gather to protest repression, on Nov 6, 2016 in city of Diyarbakir, eastern Turkey (Ilyas Akengin, AFP-Getty Images)

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) announced Sunday that it will halt its legislative activities in parliament following the arrests of nine of its legislators.

Yet Ayhan Bilgen, the spokesman for the HDP, told The Associated Press the party will not withdraw from parliament, saying that decision can only “be made in consultation with the people.” The party will stop participating in parliamentary commissions and the parliamentary assembly.

Instead the HDP will “go house to house” listening to the people following “the most extensive and darkest attack in our democratic political history,” Bilgen said at a news conference in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir.

HDP co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag were arrested Friday on terrorism-related charges, along with seven other legislators. The move prompted messages of concern from the U.S. and Europe that the arrests undermined Turkey’s democracy.

Can Dunar, the former editor-in-chief of Cumhurryiet, Turkey’s main opposition newspaper which was raided by Turkish police last Monday, has predicted the end of the parliamentary system in Turkey after authorities arrested the leaders of the country’s main pro-Kurdish opposition party in a terrorism probe on Friday.

‘Nothing different than bombing the parliament’

He likened the arrests to the failed coup attempt of July: “I mean arresting the parliamentarians is nothing different than bombing the parliament,” he told Reuters in his exile in Berlin on Friday. “So, without a parliament, without the rule of law, without free press, what do you think will be left in the country? Just the fascists.”

The journalist, who was convicted earlier in the year, accused of revealing state secrets, and is living in exile in Berlin, said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has tried to suppress all critical voices.

“He started with the journalists, the academics, the bureaucrats, army personnel. And now it’s the turn for the parliamentarians, and that means the end of parliamentarian system in Turkey,” Dundar said.

Third largest party

The HDP entered parliament last year as the nation’s third-largest party with 59 legislators. In May, Turkey’s parliament voted to strip legislators who have complaints against them of legal immunity, paving the way for the arrests.

Protesters hold copies of the latest edition of the Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet during a demonstration outside the newspaper’s headquarters in Ankara on Friday, following the arrest of nine staff members. Cumhuriyet staff. (Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images)

Turkey’s government accuses the HDP of being the political wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK, which has waged a three-decades-long insurgency against the state. The party rejects the accusation.

Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli told private broadcaster NTV that the HDP’s decision to halt its participation would not have a negative effect on legislation.

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish HDP party ‘halts legislative efforts’ in parliament after arrest of leaders, Nov 6, 2016

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish HDP party (Peoples’ Democratic Party) has stated that it will “halt its legislative efforts” in the country’s parliament in the wake of the arrest of its leaders by the Turkish authorities.

“After discussions with our parliamentary group and our central executive board, we have decided to halt our legislative efforts in light of everything that has happened,” party spokesman Ayhan Bilgen said in a statement that was read out and then posted online.

The party will not stop its activities in the parliament entirely, however. Though its deputies will remain members, they won’t participate in general assembly sittings or parliamentary commission meetings.

On Friday, Turkey arrested the HDP’s two leaders, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, as well as 13 other legislators from the party, as part of a terrorism investigation. Over 1,000 HDP members have been formally arrested in the past year, according to Reuters.

Ankara accuses the HDP of having links to the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is banned in Turkey and has taken responsibility for several terrorist bombings. The HDP denies having these links.

The post-coup crackdown in Turkey has seen over 35,000 people detained and tens of thousands of civil servants fired. Initially, the government-led purges only targeted people suspected of being supporters of Fethullah Gulen, a cleric who lives in self-exile in the US that Ankara believes to be behind the July crisis. However, now PKK-links are also increasingly being cited as reasons for arrest, as was the case with the recent detainment of the daily Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet’s staffers.

The crackdown has caused a wave of criticism from the EU, as well as protests.

In Paris, over 2,000 Kurds marched on Saturday carrying placards bearing such slogans as “Turkey bombs, Europe stays silent.”

In Cologne, Germany, up to 15,000 people rallied, according to the demonstration’s organizers. There are about one million Kurds living in Germany, making it the largest Kurdish community in Europe.

Earlier in the week, Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized the recent spate of arrests of journalists in Turkey. “For me and the entire government, it is highly alarming that freedom of the press and speech are being restricted again and again,” she said on Wednesday, as reported by Hurriyet.

However, Erdogan angrily brushed off the remark and protests. “Europe, as a whole, is abetting terrorism. Even though they declared the PKK a terrorist organization, this is clear … We see how the PKK can act so freely and comfortably in Europe,” Erdogan said in a televised speech Sunday.

“I don’t care if they call me dictator or whatever else, it goes in one ear, out the other. What matters is what my people call me.”



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