Turkey: Left-wing HDP faces new unlawful persecution

HDP co-chairs Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş.

The Kurdish-led left-wing Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which won 13.2% of the vote in 2015 national elections to become the third largest parliamentary group, has faced growing repression as the Turkish regime of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has turned increasingly dictatorial. Last year, all of the HDP’s 59 MPs were hit with arrest warrants, amid mass arrests of voices critical of the government.

The following is abridged from a February 23 statement made by HDP deputy co-chair and MP Hisyar Özsoy on the latest crack down.

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The ongoing unlawful state practices against the HDP have gained a new character with three coordinated and synchronised “legal” decisions on the same day.

On February 21, HDP co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ’s parliament membership was revoked, co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş received a five-month jail sentence, and deputy chair of the HDP parliamentary group, İdris Baluken, was re-arrested and sent back to jail.

Yüksekdağ lost her parliamentary seat due to a 10-month jail sentence. The seventh Assize Court in Adana had sentenced her to a 10-month sentence on November 27, 2013 for the charge of “making terrorist propaganda”.

Although Yüksekdağ had been elected as a deputy for Van and acquired parliamentary immunity in 2015, the 16th Chamber of Court of Cassation continued with the review process and approved the sentence on September 22 last year.

On February 21 at a plenary session of parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli read the official paper and its appendix issued by the Ministry of Justice, which ordered the revocation of Yüksekdağ’s parliamentary seat.

The three judges who sentenced Yüksekdağ have since been dismissed due to accusations they have links to exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, who is alleged to be the mastermind behind the failed coup attempt last July. The prosecutor is currently under arrest for the same charges. These facts alone require a re-review of Yüksekdağ’s case.

HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, in jail since November 4, received a five-month sentence on the same day. The timing is not coincidental.

Demirtaş was convicted of the charge of “defaming the Turkish government and state institutions” for a speech he delivered in March last year. As Demirtaş stated in his defence at the hearing, opposition politicians who criticise the policies of the government should not be prosecuted.

This sentence clearly aims at intimidating anyone who opposes the regime in Turkey. Our co-chairs and parliamentarians are being excluded from the political field and deprived of their political rights.

Finally, on the same day, İdris Baluken, who had been released from prison on January 30, was re-arrested after he had been dispatched from the hospital where he had surgery.

The arrest order of Baluken does not have a precedent in the history of Turkish law. Upon the prosecutor’s objection to his release, a court totally unrelated to his case issued a warrant. Baluken is still in recovery and his treatment cannot continue under improper prison conditions.

These synchronised “legal” decisions are an urgent call to all international entities to take immediate action. The democratic international public and institutions should not turn a blind eye and should go beyond releasing statements of concern and take urgent and concrete action.

The weak nature of responses from the international community is emboldening Erdoğan in his ruthless repression campaign against the opposition, first and foremost the HDP.

Erdoğan’s thoroughly politicised and partisan legal system is dragging the country into a much deeper chaos. It is sowing the seeds of more political violence by wiping out the already suffocated democratic political life in the country.

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