Turkey to investigate Kurdish deputy targeted by Interior Minister Soylu

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation against Kurdish lawmaker Dirayet Dilan Taşdemir for membership of an armed terrorist organisation, Mezopotamya Agency reported on Sunday.

The investigation came after Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, in a televised interview on Saturday, accused the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker of having visited the Gara region of northern Iraq, where the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has several bases.

In a written statement released on Sunday morning, the prosecutor’s office said the investigation started after authorities considered Soylu’s comments to “constitute an official complaint against Member of Parliament Dirayet Dilan Taşdemir”.

 “The Interior Minister of this country gave my name in a statement supposedly based on the account of one person,” Taşdemir said in a tweet on Saturday. “We will show that this is a huge lie, and slander.”

On Feb. 10, Turkish forces launched an operation in Gara, across the border from Turkey’s southern Şırnak and Hakkari provinces, against the PKK, which Turkey designates a terrorist organisation over its fight for Kurdish autonomy on Turkish soil for some 40 years.

Thirteen people, 12 of them members of Turkey’s security and intelligence services and one foreigner, were discovered dead on Feb. 14 during the operation, which ended shortly after as Turkish officials announced the aim had been to rescue the men held prisoner by the PKK. Turkey maintains that the PKK executed the men, while the PKK says Turkey’s airstrikes killed them.

In his interview on Saturday, Soylu accused the HDP of using its provincial and district branches to find new recruits for the PKK, and arrange transport to training camps in Iraq for the new recruits.

According to Soylu, a former PKK member who surrendered told authorities that he had been recruited by a former deputy from the HDP, and HDP’s Taşdemir had accompanied him in the car that took him from Gara to Qandil, the mountainous region in Iraq where PKK’s main headquarters are located.

The photographs Soylu showed during a speech at parliament, where he first spoke about a HDP deputy going to Gara, were “all taken during the solution process in Qandil, where we went with the knowledge and permission of Erdoğan,” HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan said in a tweet on Sunday, responding to the minister.

Between 2013 and 2015, Turkey and the PKK conducted a process to reach peace and resolve the Kurdish issue. As the state wouldn’t meet with PKK directly, HDP deputies volunteered to take messages back and forth, visiting PKK headquarters in Qandil as well as the Imralı Island Prison in the Marmara Sea where PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan is serving a life sentence.

In several court cases, HDP politicians including jailed former co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş are facing terrorism charges for having made the visits.

Turkey passed the Law No.6551 to End Terrorism and Ensure Social Integration in 2014 to regulate the peace process and define roles for the government and political actors through it. The law also removed criminal liability for persons involved with the process.

“HDP members went to Qandil and İmralı on the state’s demand, with requests and approval from the president and government,” Demirtaş’s lawyer Ramazan Demir told Ahval in an interview. “What is criminal for HDP members will be criminal for all. Those who sent them bear legal responsibility.”