The Turkish Parliament on Thursday stripped pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputies Osman Baydemir and Selma Irmak of their parliamentary status due to court rulings against them.
HDP Şanlıurfa deputy Baydemir was sentenced to one year, five months and 15 days in prison by a local court over his alleged insult to a Turkish police officer. The sentence was subsequently approved by the Gaziantep Regional Appeals Court.
HDP deputy for Hakkari Selma Irmak was also sentenced by a Turkish court to 10 years in prison on charges “membership in an armed terrorist organisation” and “spreading propaganda on behalf of the terrorist organisation.”
With this decision of Turkish Parliament the number of HDP deputies who have been stripped of their parliamentary status has increased to 11, and the number of HDP seats in Parliament has decreased to 48. Denouncing the decision, HDP deputies left the General Assembly hall on Thursday.
Figen Yüksekdağ, Nursel Aydoğan, Besime Konca, Ferhat Encü, İbrahim Ayhan and Ahmet Yıldırım were stripped of their parliamentary status due to the verdicts issued against them, and Faysal Sarıyıldız, Tuğba Hezer Öztürk and Leyla Zana because of absenteeism.
Meanwhile, HDP Mardin deputy Gülser Yıldırım, who has been in prison since November 4, 2016,, was sentenced by the Mardin 3rd High Criminal Court to seven years, six months in prison for alleged “membership in an armed terrorist organization.”
The Turkish government’s crackdown on the Kurdish political movement began in late 2016 with the arrest of high profile politicians, including the party’s then co-chairs, Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş, which led to the detention of at least 5,000 members of the HDP, including 80 mayors.
Trustees have been appointed to dozens of municipalities in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast. There are currently nine HDP deputies behind bars. The developments have attracted widespread criticism from the region and Western countries.
Turkish authorities had conducted direct talks with Abdullah Öcalan, jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for several years until a truce in effect collapsed in the summer of 2015. Since then, there have been heavy clashes between the PKK and Turkish security forces.
More than 40,000 people, including 5,500 security force members, have been killed in four decades of fighting between the Turkish state and the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU. Over 1,200 Turkish security personnel and civilians, including a number of women and children, have been killed since July 2015 alone, when the Turkish government and the PKK resumed the armed struggle.