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Turkey: Prosecutor requests lifting of immunity from pro-Kurdish MPs

Nine members of the HDP, including its co-leader, have been accused of inciting violence during a 2014 protest
HDP co-chairs Pervin Buldan (3rd R) and Mithat Sancar (2nd L) hold a press conference with MPs outside parliament in Ankara on 1 October 2020 (AFP)

Turkish prosecutors have requested that nine MPs of the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party (HDP) have their parliamentary immunity removed, opening the way for their arrest over protests in 2014.

The request comes amid soaring tensions between the HDP and Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), following a row over the government's handling of a hostage crisis that saw 13 Turkish citizens killed by Kurdish militants last week.

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office on Friday said it had prepared a summary of proceedings for the parliamentarians, including HDP co-leader Pervin Buldan, which had been submitted to the justice ministry.

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The application is linked to an investigation into protests in Turkey's Kurdish-majority southeast against the Islamic State group's assault on the Syrian town of Kobane, which was then controlled by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia.

The protests saw 37 people killed in clashes between pro-Kurdish demonstrators, the police and members of the Turkish Hezbollah, a pro-Kurdish Islamist party. The government largely blamed the HDP for inciting the violence.

The prosecutor's office said that it had evidence that the MPs "had taken an action in term of starting and continuing the violence-related events". 

Numerous HDP MPs have had their parliamentary immunity stripped in recent years.

The party's previous co-leaders, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, are both currently in prison over allegations of links to terrorism, charges they deny.

The European Court of Human Rights, which Turkey is a party to, has called for the immediate release of Demirtas, branding his imprisonment a "cover for an ulterior political purpose".

'HDP means PKK'

The Turkish state has repeatedly accused the HDP of having links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a guerilla war with Turkey since 1984.

Those accusations only became more fierce when the party's MPs criticised President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for a failed mission to rescue 13 Turkish police officers and security personnel, who had been abducted and held hostage in northern Iraq by the PKK.

The HDP argued that negotiations would have been more effective to secure their return.

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Presidential spokesperson Fahrettin Altun slammed the party as a PKK front on Sunday.

"HDP means PKK. HDP is a political puppet that acts upon orders it gets from PKK. We have seen this reality once again today," he tweeted.

On Monday, security personnel detained 718 people across 40 cities over alleged links to the PKK.

The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Erdogan's far-right political ally, has repeatedly called for the HDP to be dissolved.

In a speech on Monday, MHP leader Devlet Bahceli said that if the Kobane protest investigations did not lead to the HDP's closure, his party would make a formal application itself.

"If the duty falls upon us, which will happen in a short time, the MHP will fully exercise its right arising from article 100 of the Law on Political Parties and make its historic application," he told a meeting of his party's parliamentary group.