Ferhat Encü, a deputy from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has been stripped of his status as a member of Turkish parliament on Tuesday for allegedly making “terror propaganda.”
His seat was revoked after the Şırnak Criminal Court’s judgement against him was read in the parliament’s General Assembly on Tuesday after the court of appeals upheld a prison sentence for him. Encü has been jailed in Kandıra F-Type Prison in Turkey’s Kocaeli province.
In June 2017, a Turkish penal court in Şırnak handed a prison sentence of 4 years and 7 months for Encü. A higher appeals court upheld the ruling two months ago. Prosecutors were demanding up to 22 years of imprisonment for Encü on charges of “membership in a terror group and disseminating propaganda on behalf of it.”
Encü was jailed on November 4, 2016 along with eight other HDP deputies including the HDP’s Co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ. He was released after 3,5 months, but only two days after his release he was imprisoned again on February 17, 2017.
In another ongoing probe against Encü, prosecutors ask for an aggravated life sentence allegedly for attacking the sub-governor of the town of Uludere in Şırnak after Turkish warplanes killed 34 Kurdish civilians, many of whom were relatives of Encü in his native village of Roboski in late 2011. Encü entered politics after “the Roboski massacre” which also killed his brother along with 11 of his extended family’s members, most of them children, in the deadly air assault on the border.
Before Encü, veteran Kurdish politician and Sakharov Laureate Leyla Zana was ousted last month from the Turkish Parliament for the second time in her political life. The number of HDP deputies who have been stripped of their parliamentary duties has thus risen to 7. Among the HDP lawmakers kicked out are the party’s former Co-leader Figen Yüksekdağ, Nursel Aydoğan, Tuğba Hezer, Faysal Sarıyıldız, and Besime Konca.
According to the Turkish constitution, the crime of terror propaganda poses an obstacle for being deputy. Deputies can lose their seats if they face sentences of more than one year in jail and if their cases are then referred to the parliament by the Justice Ministry; the court decision must also be read out in the parliament before any seat gets revoked.
Meanwhile, pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP) Co-chair Mehmet Arslan was also detained by Turkish police in front of the Central Communications Bureau of the party in Diyarbakır province on Tuesday. While the reason for Arslan’s detention was not disclosed, he has been taken to the provincial police directorate.
Turkey 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. The developments have attracted widespread criticism from the region and Western countries.