Oppression targeting pro-Kurdish HDP mounts all sides ahead of referendum

Ferhat Encü

Turkish government’s oppression targeting pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) has geared up with new arrest warrants for HDP deputies and new seizures of pro-Kurdish municipalities.

HDP deputy Ferhat Encü, who was released from jail on Wednesday, was arrested by Şırnak court on Friday after the Şırnak Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office objected to his release.

Encü was first arrested in a police operation on Nov. 4 along with eight other deputies including the party’s Co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ. He was released from Kandıra Prison on Wednesday. Encü was referred to the Şırnak Courthouse on Friday after detention and he was arrested by the same court.

Meanwhile, a Diyarbakır court on Friday issued an arrest warrant for İdris Baluken, another HDP deputy, who was also recently released from jail. Baluken, who is also HDP parliamentary group deputy chairman, was released from jail on Jan. 30 after spending nearly three months behind bars.

A case was launched against Baluken on charges of membership in an armed terror group, disrupting the unity and integrity of the state, disseminating propaganda for a terror organization and taking part in illegal demonstrations. He is facing a jail sentence of up to 15 years.

Also, another court in Adıyaman ruled for the detention of HDP deputy Behçet Yıldırım on Friday. The Adıyaman court has ordered that Adıyaman province deputy Yıldırım be detained due to his absence at the second hearing of a trial in which he is accused of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization.”

On the other hand, the Ministry of Interior Affairs on Friday appointed a trustee to the Bahçesaray Municipality in Van province, which was run by a pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP) mayor. Bahçesaray district governor Serhat Karabektaş was appointed as a trustee to replace Bahçesaray Mayor Mehmet Garip Aykut.

The number of local municipalities that have been taken away from elected mayors in predominantly Kurdish provinces as part of an ongoing crackdown against Kurdish politicians has risen to 82.

On the western part of the Turkey, in Edirne, a delegation including international figures, deputies from the European Parliament and HDP officials were on Friday denied the right to visit jailed HDP Co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş on the grounds that they did not have permission from Turkish Justice Ministry.

Among the delegation members were EP deputy Julia Ward, former EP deputy Francis Wurtz, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) member Miren Edurne Gorrotxategi, Ulla Sandbaek, member of the Parliament of Iceland, former Minister and Chairman of the Confederation of State and Municipal Employees of Iceland (BSRB) Ögmundur Jonasson, International Institute for Social Ecology Advisor from Canada Dimitri Roussopoulos, Westminster School of Geography at the University of Leeds and International Institute for Social Ecology Advisory Board Member Federico Venturini, Cambridge University Political Sociology Professor Dr. Thomas Jeffery Miley, HDP İstanbul deputy Hüda Kaya, HDP Party Council member Ayşe Berktay and lawyers.

None of the delegation members was allowed to visit Demirtaş in Edirne Prison because a request they made to the Justice Ministry for a visit to the imprisoned HDP co-chair had been rejected.

EP deputy Ward, who spoke to reporters in front of the prison, said the number of arrestees in Turkey is increasing with every passing day and that as an activist of human rights, women’s rights and children’s rights, she is very concerned about Turkey’s future. Ward said democracy is under attack in Turkey with the imprisonment of more and more teachers, students and academics.

Demirtaş was arrested in a police operation on Nov. 4 along with eight other deputies including the party’s other co-chair, Figen Yüksekdağ.

Turkish government has stepped up its crackdown on Kurdish politicians in recent months. Trustees have been appointed to dozens of municipalities in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast, while hundreds of local Kurdish politicians have been arrested on terror charges. There are currently 11 HDP deputies behind bars.

Feb. 17, 2017

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