We learn that HDP Deputies Ahmet Yıldırım and İbrahim Ayhan have also lost their parliamentary status after being convicted in criminal court
“Their plan is quite clear: to revoke, one by one, the parliamentary membership of all the deputies of the third biggest party in parliament by means of these sentences, and to eliminate the political figures of the period we live in from the scene of democratic politics. And by this way, to destroy a political movement which constitutes Turkey’s sole hope for democracy.” (Peoples’ Democratic Party, Central Executive Board, 5 January 2018)
In the June 2015 Turkish General Elections the left-wing and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (Turkish: Halkların Demokratik Partisi) (HDP) gained 13.12% of the total votes cast (6,280,302 out of 46,774,793), breaking the 10% threshold, the minimum necessary for any Turkish political party to have its representatives sit in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. It secured 81 seats, becoming the 3rd largest party in parliament; and a significant and radical oppositional voice.
In doing so the HDP deprived Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling AKP from being the majority party and forming a single-party government. For that to have happened he would have needed 330 seats, which, as we now know some years later, had the capacity to seriously affect his ability to deliver the referendum necessary to change the constitution so that Turkey would abandon its traditional parliamentary system of government and instead adopt an American-style executive presidency government.
This situation, however, was not to last long. In the recalled elections in November that year and in an atmosphere of war stoked by the AKP’s ‘security’ operations in south east Turkey against its Kurdish inhabitants, the HDP vote fell, securing this time round, 59 out of 550 seats, 10.75% of the vote, down from the 13.2% secured in June. Yet still a significant achievement for the Party and ongoing hope for radical change into the future.
This tension between the HDP (and in particular its co-chair at that time, Selahattin Demirtaş) and Turkish President and Chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan resulted in some curious interventions, as the current trial of Mr. Demirtaş is bringing to the surface:
“The most striking part of his defense was about the feud initiated by Erdogan against him. Demirtas, who ran against Erdogan in 2014, was asked to withdraw from the elections by Erdogan, who sent envoys for that purpose. He was told by those envoys that Erdogan was very irritated by his candidacy. The envoys, who were in the delegation that once conducted negotiations with the PKK on behalf of the government, told Demirtas, “Erdogan asks while the [Kurdish] peace process is underway, why is he running for presidency against himself?”
Demirtas’ response was, “We are not his [Erdogan’s] slaves. We are engaged in the [peace] process to enhance democratic politics. We are trying to decommission the PKK, but to disband the HDP is not our objective. Why is he irritated from our strengthening within the context of democracy?”
Demirtas also revealed that he was approached by Erdogan to refrain from participating in the June 2015 elections. Erdogan proposed that he not run in the elections as the HDP but as an independent candidate.
An interesting anecdote Demirtas mentioned in his defense was that two officials — allegedly then-Interior Minister Besir Atalay and national intelligence chief Hakan Fidan — brought him a handwritten letter from Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the outlawed Kurdish militants — to force him to coordinate with Erdogan.”
The recent attempted coup d’état, 15 July 2016, hard on the heels of this (temporary) loss for Erdoğan’s AKP of its parliamentary majority, was in no uncertain terms going to effect Turkish democracy. As we now know this has taken shape in an ongoing state of emergency since the 3 October 2016. “State of emergency” could now be another name for the rule of Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan.
From that time on, and despite their coming out strongly against the attempted coup, Erdoğan’s crack down began to hit the opposition party:
“From September 2016 and forward, the Judiciary of Turkey started to submit HDP militants and elected officials to anti-terrorism accusations. As of June 2017, more than 10 HDP representatives are under arrest, disturbing widely the HDP ability to communicate and be active on the political scene.”
Stephen Knight: “On 15 July 2016 an attempted coup in Turkey failed. Since then, the country has been sliding into a dictatorship. President Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (the AKP) have purged the civil service, judiciary, military, and legal profession of 150,000 people whose loyalty has been questioned. The failed coup was in Erdoğan’s own words a “gift from God”. Many suspect the hand of the Turkish intelligence services in planning the abortive coup, on behalf of the government in order to provide a pretext for the purge.”
A political purge by the judiciary
In January 2018 the HDP released the following statement:
“During the first days of 2018, new steps were taken in the political genocide against the HDP. Over the last 2 days, the dependent and partial judiciary of the ruling power has shelled out a series of new sentences. Law has once again been appropriated for political interests. Members of the judiciary have once again been used as mere tools in political set-ups.
From a legal perspective, each and every one of these indictments are mockeries: they display absolutely no legal value; are based on unfounded allegations and brazen lies; were prepared by prosecutors who since have been imprisoned as suspects in FETO-cases. Thus, sentences given as a result of such indictments constitute the most patent examples of injustice, unlawfulness and a lack of conscience:
HDP Diyarbakır MP and Parliamentary Group Deputy Chair İdris Baluken 16 years 8 months;
HDP Vice Co-Chair Aysel Tuğluk 1 year 6 months;
HDP Şırnak MP Leyla Birlik 1 year 9 months;
HDP Diyarbakır MP Nursel Aydoğan 1 year 3 months;
HDP Van MP Adem Geveri 1 year 6 months;
and Democratic Regions Party Co-Chair Sebahat Tuncel 2 years 3 months
Their plan is quite clear: to revoke, one by one, the parliamentary membership of all the deputies of the third biggest party in parliament by means of these sentences, and to eliminate the political figures of the period we live in from the scene of democratic politics. And in this way, to destroy a political movement which constitutes Turkey’s sole hope for democracy.
Of course, none of these steps taken by the government and the state, all based on every means of illegal and unlawful acts come as a surprise. The purge of those who resist the institutionalization of fascism, those who continue the struggle for democracy and justice, and those who are members of the democratic social opposition is not an unexpected development.
We warn the members of the judiciary who have preferred to seek shelter with the governing power rather than adhering to universal democratic legal principles, and have led this political genocide under the cover of Law, and remind them once again of the dramatic end their colleagues faced who followed the same path in the recent past.
Those who think they can end the struggle for peace, democracy and equality of the forces of democracy in Turkey and of the Kurdish people through these means are terribly mistaken. They should know that the younger generations have inherited and will carry this struggle on their shoulders with their experience, determined attitude and libertarian courage. The liquidation efforts are once again wasted, just like in previous attempts.
We know very well that the judiciary acts as a baton of the government. There is no longer a judicial system to speak of, and there is no longer a platform left to discuss such issues with arguments that refer to law. The only way to stop this course of action is to raise the political struggle, to build a common front of democratic forces and to change this government – along with its judiciary. We are committed and dedicated to achieve precisely that.” Peoples’ Democratic Party, Central Executive Board, 5 January 2018
Now, as we enter the first week in March, 2018 we learn that HDP Deputies Ahmet Yıldırım and İbrahim Ayhan have also lost their parliamentary status after being convicted in criminal court, in Ayhan’s case on “terrorist propaganda” charges based on his social media posts and attending funerals of members of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Ahmet Yıldırım lost his seat after receiving a fourteen month jail sentence for “insulting the President” (The HDP deputy called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “a parody of a sultan in a palace.”)
“Ahmet Yıldırım losing his parliamentary status is probably a first in the history of world politics,” commented human rights lawyer Kerem Altıparmak on Twitter. “The first time that a parliamentarian loses his status for insulting a head of state. And besides, the statement they called an insult was stone-cold political criticism.”
Shortly afterwards another HDP deputy, Selma Irmak, was also found guilty on two separate charges (“membership in a terrorist organization” and “disseminating terrorist propaganda.” ) and will lose her seat in parliament after receiving a ten-year sentence.
According to Turkey’s Constitution, any conviction on terrorism charges prohibits parliamentary membership.
Urfa MP Dilek Öcalan was also sentenced to 2 years and 6 months in prison on March 1st on charge of propagandizing for a terrorist organization.
Öcalan was arrested for having attended the funeral of Mehmet Yılmaz, “who was murdered by law enforcers, on February 23, 2016 in Viranşehir, Urfa.”
This brings the total number of HDP deputies ejected from parliament to 10 of the 59 elected, including former party co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ.
Deputies who lost their parliamentary status
Tuğba Hezer Öztürk were earlier stripped of their parliamentary status. MPs
The following nine HDP deputies are also currently being held behind bars:
and Burcu Çelik.
Early in November 2016, Selahattin Demirtaş, HDP co-leader at that time (he was recently replaced at the February 2018 HDP Congress ) was held with at least 11 other MPs when Turkish police raided his Ankara home. His co-leader, Figen Yüksekdağ was also arrested at her home in Diyarbakır.
Stephen Knight: “Allegations include that he founded a terrorist organisation, the PKK, a group which fought for years for Kurdish autonomy within Turkey. Yet the group was established when Demirtaş was just five years old. The evidence against him comes from his public speeches, media interviews and even his attendance at Kurdish New Years’ celebrations…”
As of January 2018 Turkish prosecutors announced they were seeking a 142-year prison sentence for Demirtaş.
By May 2017 there were two co-chairs and nine HDP deputies in jail. In addition, more than 80 Kurdish mayors were being held in prison.
“Our co-chairs, deputies, and co-mayors are prosecuted because of their speeches and political activities. The appeals we made to the Constitutional Court in November 2016 for the release of our co-chairs and deputies have not been reviewed, yet. And neither has the European Court of Human Rights started reviewing HDP’s applications regarding both the lifting of legislative immunities of its deputies and their arrest.” Hisyar Ozsoy (Vice Co-chair of HDP Responsible for Foreign Affairs)
The jailing of the members of parliament is possible because of a temporary constitutional change, approved by the Turkish parliament in May 2016, that lifted the parliamentary immunity of 154 members under investigation at that time for criminal offenses – 55 of them were HDP members.
“More than 10,000 HDP members have also been arrested, usually on spurious charges of “supporting terrorism” in retaliation for the HDP’s support for the struggle of the Kurdish community for democratic rights.”
Human Rights Watch
“The HDP informed Human Rights Watch that since the July 2016 attempted coup in Turkey, 5,471 of its party officials, including heads of provincial and district branches, had been detained, with 1,482 sent to pretrial detention. The BDP sister party told Human Rights Watch that 3,547 of its party officials had been placed in pretrial detention since July 2015. The arrests have undermined the ability of parties to conduct a campaign over the upcoming referendum, officials from both parties say.”
“After having been remanded in prison detention in 2016, nine parliamentarians from the Kurdish-rooted leftist Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP), including the party’s two leaders, remained in prison during the whole year. Sixty elected mayors of the Democratic Regions Party, the sister party of the HDP, representing constituencies in the predominantly Kurdish east and southeast of Turkey, also remained in prison. The unelected officials who replaced them continued in office throughout 2017. In October, six elected mayors, including those representing the capital, Ankara, and Istanbul, were left with no option but to resign after being requested to do so by the President. As a result, a third of Turkey’s population was not being represented by the people they had elected at the 2016 local elections.”
Stephen Knight, a human rights lawyer who recently “travelled to Erdogan’s Turkey to see his political opponent tried in court” writes:
“Allegations…include that he founded a terrorist organisation, the PKK, a group which fought for years for Kurdish autonomy within Turkey. Yet the group was established when Demirtaş was just five years old…
Demirtaş’s defence team have made clear to the court that they know that in this climate he is not facing a trial by law, but by politics. Demirtaş spoke for two days in his own defence, pointing to the absurdity of the charges against him and laying out the political nature of the case. His lawyers also pointed out that he in fact still has parliamentary immunity, and so cannot lawfully be prosecuted until it is revoked. However, the defence accept that the system is rigged, and anticipate that despite the weakness of the case against him, the threat to judges if they do not follow Erdoğan’s wishes will ensure his conviction. A result from the trial has now been adjourned until at least April.
As Turkey slips deeper into dictatorship, the rule of law weakens every day. Opposition politicians are jailed, judges who refuse to do Erdoğan’s will are fired, and the police turn a blind eye to those who attack the AKP’s political opponents. Erdoğan’s impunity is such that he has started an illegal foreign war and is taking steps to crush all those who oppose it domestically.
It is time for the world to wake up to the destruction of the rule of law in Turkey, and to stand by those who seek to defend it.”
…As the HDP Central Executive Board said in January:
Of course, none of these steps taken by the government and the state, all based on every means of illegal and unlawful acts come as a surprise. The purge of those who resist the institutionalization of fascism, those who continue the struggle for democracy and justice, and those who are members of the democratic social opposition is not an unexpected development.” (Peoples’ Democratic Party, Central Executive Board, 5 January 2018)
Time. For. The. World. (And in particular Turkey’s so-called ‘civilised’ NATO allies): To. Wake. Up.
Turkish general election, 2015 – Peoples’ Democratic Party (Turkey)
Türkçe: Selahattin Demirtaş, Hüda Kaya, Turgut Öker, Sezai Temelli, Garo Paylan, Abdullah Levent Tüzel
By Hilmi Hacaloğlu [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Kurdish Members of Parliament in Turkey | DW Documentary
Arrests leave a ‘dark stain’ on Turkey’s history – HDP – world
Selahattin Demirtaş Ft. Hozan Diyar – Giden Kuşlar