Turkey to strip immunities of nine pro-Kurdish deputies

Turkish Interior Ministry has filed requests to lift the parliamentary immunities of nine lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), including co-chair Pervin Buldan, over their alleged role in a series of street protests in 2014, dubbed the Kobane Incidents, Halk TV news site reported on Friday.

HDP deputies Fatma Kurtulan, Garo Paylan, Hüda Kaya, Meral Danış Beştaş, Hakkı Saruhan Oluç, Serpil Kemalbay, Sezai Temelli, Pero Dündar and Pervin Buldan may face trial if the procedure to lift their immunities are completed.

For the deputies to face trial, parliament would need to vote on requests that the Justice Ministry in turn would need to accept and process the requests.

On Dec. 30, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s office prepared an indictment on 108 members of the HDP, including jailed former co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş and the nine deputies.

Suspects were charged with various crimes, including first degree murder, attempted murder, robbery, incitement to violence, and violating the integrity of the state.

Between Oct. 6 and 8, 2014, at least 34 people were killed in protests against an ISIS siege of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s perceived approval of it. Protests spread to several provinces throughout Turkey.

Critics of the legal investigation point out that in the months after the 2014 Kobane events, top officials of the HDP and ruling party met at Dolmabahçe Palace in early 2015 to announce protocols for Kurdish talks.

Selahattin Demirtaş’s legal ordeal began on Nov. 24, 2016, when he was charged with alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an outlawed militant group that has fought for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey since 1984.

The Kurdish politician remains behind bars despite several court orders for his release, both by Turkish courts and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and faces a sentence of up to 142 years in prison.

The ECHR on Dec. 22 called on Turkey to immediately release Demirtaş and said there was no evidence linking Demirtaş’s actions with the alleged terrorism-related offences, which were cited as the basis for his continued detention.

On Feb. 1, the top European court opened a new case regarding the second arrest of Demirtaş over the Kobane protests in question, which came while the Kurdish politician was already in pre-trial detention.

The ECHR has asked Turkey to submit additional information on the conditions of Demirtaş’s arrest, whether it was based on reasonable suspicion and justification, and whether the length of detention was reasonable, according to Demirtaş’s lawyer Ramazan Demir.