In its defence submitted to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) regarding the arrest of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chairs Selahettin Demirtaş, Figen Yüksekdağ and 7 other deputies, Turkish government has claimed that the arrests are “necessary and appropriate” for the “protection of a democratic society” and “stopping violence.”
“It should be accepted that the HDP Co-chair and deputies have influence over a section of society who support their viewpoint. During the time in question, the applicants have continued their activities mentioned in the indictment that led to their arrest,” claimed the defence.
“The launch of an investigation into the applicants (HDP deputies) and their arrest were necessary for a democratic society. They were also appropriate for the protection of a democratic society, for living in peace, for protection from violence, and for success in the fight against terror organizations,” claimed also in Turkish government’s defence submitted to the ECtHR.
The HDP on Feb. 20, 2017 filed an application at the court regarding the arrest of a number of its deputies, including its co-chair. The HDP committee said in its application that it had no choice but to apply to the ECtHR, as Turkey’s Constitutional Court was not carrying out any examination and was dealing with a large backlog.
Demirtaş has been in jail since Nov. 4, 2016, along with eight other HDP deputies including Figen Yüksekdağ, a former co-chair. Turkey on Nov. 24, 2017 submitted its defense to the ECtHR, but the content of the defense has only recently come to light.
The government’s defence also rejected suggestions that the “lifting of deputies’ immunity of prosecution was a step undertaken by the government to hinder opposition.”
“The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) also acted together to prevent deputies from supporting terror under the cover of parliamentary immunity,” the defense stated, referring to the controversial parliamentary vote in early 2016 to selectively remove some deputies’ immunity.
“Among those whose immunities have been lifted are CHP chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and MHP chair Devlet Bahçeli. Summaries of proceedings against both of them have been prepared, with both of the party chairs giving their written and oral testimonies to the relevant authorities,” the defense stated.
In 2016, the Turkish Parliament has voted by a large majority to support a bill to strip 138 deputies of their immunity from prosecution. Most deputies from the main opposition CHP and the MHP had also supported the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the chamber.
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 as well as 9 HDP deputies including the party’s co-chairs are behind bars on terror charges.