Emine Ayna, Fatma Kurtulan, Aysel Tuğluk, Sabahat Tuncel and Selahattin Demirtaş received official notices last week instructing them to testify as part of cases in which they were implicated in the past. The deputies have long refused to testify in the cases over crimes they are charged with having committed before they were elected as deputies.

    The deputies, however, refused to testify, saying they would be subjected to discrimination if they were forced to do so. Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan said on Saturday that he held the notices in his office for a few days before submitting them to the DTP deputies in hopes of reaching a consensus with related bodies to postpone the cases for while.

    “I had talks with the justice minister and the interior minister. We are working to reach a solution. However, it is not likely that a solution will be found at the moment,” he explained. Asked what would happen if the DTP deputies refused to testify, Toptan cited Articles 14 and 83 of the Constitution and said they were obliged to go to the prosecutor’s office to testify.

    “The deputies are called to testify as part of cases into crimes they are charged with having committed before they were elected as deputies. The official notice clearly states that they will be taken to prosecutors’ offices by police to testify if they refuse to testify themselves. Articles 14 and 83 of the Constitution stipulate the same thing. This is something they should decide. We are doing our best to solve the problem before it turns into a crisis,” Toptan said.

    The DTP deputies, however, defied Toptan’s call and reiterated their determination not to testify. “Why are we subjected to discrimination? Why do we deserve such injustice when we express our opinions?

If we were representing just ourselves in Parliament, we would keep silent. But this is injustice against our public. So no one should expect us to bow to such injustice. We will see if they can take our friends for testimony,” said DTP Şırnak deputy Hasip Kaplan.

The tense atmosphere in Parliament has led jurists and intellectuals to search for a way out of the testimony crisis at a time when everyone is hopeful about a possible solution to the Kurdish issue.

Many started to discuss ways to solve the Kurdish problem last week after President Abdullah Gül signaled that steps would be taken to resolve this serious issue. On his way back from Prague last week, Gül told journalists that the biggest problem in Turkey is the Kurdish question.

"Whether you call it a terror problem, a southeastern Anatolia problem or a Kurdish problem, this is the first question for Turkey. It has to be solved," he said.

Turkey has so far lost tens of thousands of people and billions of dollars because of the Kurdish problem, which turned violent after the foundation of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in 1984 with the ultimate aim of establishing an independent Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey.

Since then Turkish security forces have often clashed with the PKK.

How to avert a DEP scandal rerun

Jurists and intellectuals have called on Parliament and the government to act in a sensible manner and to avoid inflicting damage on efforts being exerted to solve the Kurdish problem. They warn that forcing the DTP deputies to testify under threat of police force would take Turkey back 15 years, referring to an incident in 1994 when four Democracy Party (DEP) deputies were taken out of Parliament by police.

In 1994 Leyla Zana, Selim Sadak, Hatip Dicle and Orhan Doğan were taken by police officers to a prosecutor’s office when they refused to testify over their use of Kurdish during their swearing-in ceremony in Parliament. The repressive role of the police in the incident was harshly denounced.

Sacit Kayasu, a retired prosecutor, said a solution should be found if Turkey does not want to witness another scandal like the one in 1994. “If we don’t want another problem between Turks and Kurds, we should find a solution. If the aim is to help the democratic order continue in the country, they should suspend the cases for a while. We may find many other solutions. Otherwise, Parliament will suffer serious damage to its image,” he noted.

Toptan, in response, said yesterday that he was doing everything in his power to avoid an atmosphere of crisis in Parliament.

“A crisis would not serve anyone. God is my witness; I am doing my best for a solution. I am open to any proposals or any solution, regardless of who it comes from. I also asked the interior minister not to take any step without informing Parliament. I am sure we will overcome this problem with common sense,” he stressed.

‘Constitutional amendment is a must’

Jurists are of the opinion that problematic articles of the Constitution should be changed immediately to prevent the emergence of further troubles.

Efforts have been ongoing for the past few years to change the Constitution, but they are proceeding slowly as some political parties are unwilling to accept changes to the Constitution.

“Articles 14 and 83 of the Constitution should definitely be abolished, because they are open to abuse against the rights and freedoms of individuals. These two articles reflect the repressive spirit of the Sept. 12 [1980] military coup,” said Ergun Özbudun, an expert on constitutional law.

Şerafettin Elçi, the leader of the pro-Kurdish Participatory Democracy Party (KADEP), agreed and said all articles in the Constitution that lead to ambiguous interpretations should be abolished.