Main opposition MP under investigation over criticism of Turkish military

CHP deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu

Turkish prosecutors have launched an investigation into Sezgin Tanrıkulu, a Kurdish lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), due to comments critical of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), Turkish Minute reported on Monday, citing the Bianet news website.

The MP is being investigated by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on allegations of “insulting the Turkish nation, state, the republic and the state organs” and “fomenting enmity and hatred among the public or insulting them” under Articles 301 and 216 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), respectively.

Tanrıkulu, a prominent human rights activist and lawyer, faces the probe due to statements criticizing the Turkish military during a program on TV100 on Sept. 8.

“Not everything the TSK does is immune to criticism. We are members of parliament, we question these matters,” Tanrıkulu said, referring to the Sept. 12, 1980 coup, the attempted coup on July 15, 2016, politically motivated and unsolved murders in the 1980s and 1990s and the Roboski massacre.

The incident commonly known as the Roboski massacre refers to the killing of 34 male Kurdish civilians, most of them teenagers, on Dec. 28, 2011, when military jets bombed them after receiving intelligence on terrorists from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Uludere district of Şırnak province near the Turkish–Iraqi border.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

The Turkish Defense Ministry released a written statement regarding Tanrıkulu’s remarks without mentioning him by name, saying, “People who make these accusations and who lend themselves to them are, to put it mildly, ignorant and misguided.”

Tanrıkulu’s party, the CHP, has avoided from supporting its lawmaker, with the party’s leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu describing the TSK as the “apple of the nation’s eye” when asked to comment on the lawmaker’s remarks.

CHP spokesperson Faik Öztrak said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the matter would be discussed by party management while slamming the deputy’s remarks.

“… Tanrıkulu’s statements, which cast aspersions on the cherished Turkish Armed Forces, are unacceptable,” Öztrak said.

Tanrıkulu, who participated in Friday’s program via a live phone-in, made the controversial statements while trying to explain his reasons for submitting a motion to parliament regarding allegations that the Turkish military used chemical weapons against militants of the PKK during its operations in northern Iraq in 2021.

The Defense Ministry strongly denied the allegations, saying they were “entirely baseless and devoid of truth.”

Erdoğan: Tanrıkulu’s comments on TSK won’t go unpunished

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who answered reporters’ questions on the plane when returning from his visit to India for the G20 Leaders’ Summit, said Tanrıkulu’s “cowardly insults and allegations” against the TSK would not go unpunished.

“They haven’t gotten tired of making false accusations against the Turkish Armed Forces, which shows respect even for its enemies, with continuous mudslinging and such comments. … This individual will face the consequences of speaking ill of the world’s most honorable and upstanding army in a court of law,” Erdoğan said, referring to the lawmaker.

The president also accused Tanrıkulu of links to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the outlawed PKK and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Erdoğan accuses the HDP of being the political wing of the PKK, and his AKP government has been trying to close down the party since early 2021 over its alleged ties to the outlawed Kurdish militants. Bekir Şahin, the chief public prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals, filed a closure case against the HDP in March 2021.

The HDP denies links to the PKK and accuses the government of targeting the party because of its strong opposition to Erdoğan.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç on Monday hinted that Tanrıkulu’s parliamentary immunity could be lifted.

“These statements [of Tanrıkulu] are unacceptable. … The investigation related to this matter has been submitted to the agenda of the parliament. … The necessary investigation process has commenced. The future course of action is at the discretion of the parliament,” Tunç said.

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