Pro-Kurd party quits Turk par­lia­ment over ar­rests

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

IS­TAN­BUL: Turkey’s main pro-Kur­dish party yes­ter­day said it was pulling out of par­lia­ment af­ter nine of its MPs in­clud­ing the two co-lead­ers were ar­rested in an un­prece­dented crack­down. The Peo­ples’ Demo­cratic Party (HDP), the third-largest party in this leg­is­la­ture, said it would no longer be tak­ing part in gen­eral ses­sions of par­lia­ment or com­mis­sion work.

The ar­rest on Fri­day of the MPs, in­clud­ing charis­matic party lead­ers Se­la­hat­tin Demir­tas and Fi­gen Yuk­sekdag, added to ten­sions as Turkey wages a re­lent­less bat­tle against Kur­dish mil­i­tants and deals with the after­math of the July 15 failed coup. The move also com­pounded con­cerns among Turkey’s Western al­lies that the state of emer­gency im­posed af­ter the coup bid is be­ing used for a gen­eral crack­down against crit­ics of Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan and not just the sus­pected plot­ters.

On Satur­day, an Is­tan­bul court or­dered the jail­ing pend­ing trial of nine ex­ec­u­tives and editorial staff from the op­po­si­tion Cumhuriyet news­pa­per. Some 35,000 peo­ple have been ar­rested af­ter the coup bid, which Ankara blames on the US-based preacher Fethul­lah Gulen, while tens of thou­sands more have been fired from their jobs. The lat­est ar­rests of the HDP MPs prompted the Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties to re­strict ac­cess to so­cial me­dia and VPN ap­pli­ca­tions and also led to more heavy losses for the em­bat­tled Turk­ish lira.

‘Turn­ing point’

The HDP said in­stead of sit­ting in par­lia­ment, its re­main­ing MPs who are not un­der ar­rest will go from “house to house, vil­lage to vil­lage and dis­trict to dis­trict” to meet peo­ple. It said that at the end of th­ese con­sul­ta­tions, pro­pos­als will be made over how to go for­ward. The HDP has 59 seats in par­lia­ment and their ab­sence could en­able Er­do­gan to push through his vi­sion of a pres­i­den­tial sys­tem which the HDP has al­ways ve­he­mently op­posed.

HDP party spokesman Ay­han Bil­gen, call­ing Turkey at a “turn­ing point”, told lo­cal me­dia that any de­ci­sion on whether to re­place the im­pris­oned Demir­tas and Yuk­sekdag at the helm of the party while they were jailed would be taken in the next days. They have been charged with mem­ber­ship and pro­mo­tion of the out­lawed Kur­dis­tan Work­ers Party (PKK).

The HDP has al­ways ve­he­mently de­nied be­ing a front for the PKK, which has waged an over three-decade in­sur­gency against the Turk­ish state in search of greater rights and au­ton­omy for the Kur­dish mi­nor­ity. In­te­grat­ing the Kur­dish move­ment into main­stream pol­i­tics was a key plank of the peace process once spear­headed by Er­do­gan which col­lapsed when a truce rup­tured in 2015.

Turkey calls in EU en­voys

Wash­ing­ton and the Euro­pean Union re­acted an­grily to the ar­rests, with EU for­eign af­fairs chief Fed­er­ica Mogherini and EU En­large­ment Com­mis­sioner Johannes Hahn say­ing Yuk­sekdag and Demir­tas were “our trusted and val­ued in­ter­locu­tors.” “Th­ese developments... com­pro­mise par­lia­men­tary democ­racy in Turkey,” they said.

Fol­low­ing the crit­i­cism, EU Af­fairs Min­is­ter Omer Ce­lik in­vited EU en­voys to a meet­ing Mon­day where he will give an ad­dress “on the lat­est developments in our coun­try”, the min­istry said in a state­ment.

Turkey’s bid to join the EU dates back to the 1960s with for­mal talks start­ing in 2005. But the process has been mired in prob­lems and set back fur­ther by re­cent threats by Er­do­gan to bring back the death penalty.

Turk­ish po­lice used tear gas and plas­tic bul­lets Satur­day to dis­perse a demon­stra­tion in Is­tan­bul against the ar­rests, and a sim­i­lar march was ex­pected yes­ter­day in the south­east­ern city of Di­yarbakir. A bomb at­tack in Di­yarbakir on Fri­day left 11 peo­ple dead, with Turkey say­ing it was the work of the PKK. But the Amaq news agency, af­fil­i­ated to Is­lamic State (IS) ex­trem­ists, claimed it for the ji­hadists. “The fight against ter­ror will con­tinue un­til there is not a sin­gle ter­ror­ist re­main­ing,” Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yildirim said in a speech in the east­ern city of Erz­in­can.


DI­YARBAKIR: Par­lia­ment mem­ber of Pro-Kur­dish Peo­ples’ Demo­cratic Party (HDP) and HDP spokesman Ay­han Bil­gen (C) speaks on Novem­ber 6, 2016 dur­ing a press con­fer­ence.

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