Turkey’s Kurdish HDP co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas (L) and Figen Yuksekdag. Photo: HDP’s FB

The ongoing unlawful state practices against the HDP have gained a new character with three coordinated and synchronized “legal” decisions on the same day. On 21 February 2017, HDP’s co-chair Ms Figen Yüksekdağ’s parliament membership was revoked, co-chair Mr Selahattin Demirtaş received a five-month prison sentence, and Deputy Chair of HDP Parliamentary Group Mr İdris Baluken was re-arrested and sent back to prison.

Co-chair Yüksekdağ lost her parliamentary seat due to a ten-month prison sentence. The seventh Assize Court in Adana had sentenced Ms Yüksekdağ to ten-month prison sentence on 27 November 2013 with the charge of “making terrorist propaganda.” Although Mrs. Yüksekdağ had been elected as a deputy for Van both on June 7th and November 1st elections and acquired parliamentary immunity in 2015, the 16th Chamber of Court of Cassation continued with the review process and approved the sentence on 22 September 2016. Approximately 5 months following this approval, Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli sent to the plenary the official paper and its appendix issued by Ministry of Justice, which ordered the revocation of Ms Yüksekdağ’s seat in the parliament. When this official paper was read at the plenary session on 21 February 2017, Ms Yüksekdağ lost her seat.

Both the sentence and its approval by the Court of Cassation violate the Turkish law and Constitution. The Court of Cassation continued with reviewing Mrs. Yüksekdağ’s case despite her legislative immunity. More importantly, the three judges who had sentenced Ms Yüksekdağ were dismissed with the accusation of having links to the exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, who is alleged to be the mastermind behind the failed coup attempt in July 2016, while the prosecutor of Ms Yüksekdağ’s case is currently under arrest for the same charges. Only these facts require a re-review of Ms Yüksekdağ’s case.

HDP Co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, in prison since 4 November 2016, received a five-month prison sentence on the same day. The timing is not coincidental. The Second Court of First Instance in Doğubeyazıt convicted Mr Demirtaş with the charge of “defaming the Turkish government and state institutions” in a speech he delivered on 19 March 2016. As Mr Demirtaş also stated in his defense at the hearing, opposition politicians who criticize the policies of the government should not and cannot be prosecuted. This prison sentence clearly aims at intimidating anyone who opposes the AKP-Erdoğan regime in Turkey. Our co-chairs and deputies are being excluded from the political field and deprived of their political rights. They should be carrying out the referendum campaign now, and not being questioned at courtrooms with groundless accusations.

Finally, on the same day, Mr İdris Baluken, who had been released from prison on 30 January 2017 after 3 months of imprisonment, was re-arrested after he had been dispatched from the hospital where he had a surgery. The arrest order of Mr Baluken does not have a precedent in the history of Turkish law. Upon the prosecutor’s objection to the release of Mr Baluken, a court totally unrelated to Mr Baluken’s case issued a warrant sixteen days after his release. Mr. Baluken is still in recovery process and his treatment cannot continue under improper prison conditions.

These synchronized “legal” decisions targeting our co-chairs and deputy chair of parliamentary group are an urgent call to all international entities, first and foremost to the EU, CoE and the PACE authorities, to take immediate action. The democratic international public and institutions should not turn a blind eye on this sheer unlawfulness against the HDP; they should go beyond releasing statements of concern and take urgent and concrete action. President Erdoğan’s thoroughly politicized and partisan legal system is dragging the country into a much deeper chaos in the run-up to the referendum and under state of emergency rule, sowing the seeds of more political violence by wiping out the already suffocated democratic political life in the country.

Anybody who is worried about the democratic future of Turkey should act without any delay. The weak nature of responses from the international community is emboldening President Erdoğan in his ruthless repression campaign against the opposition, first and foremost the HDP, to win in the referendum.

Hişyar Özsoy
Deputy Co-chair of HDP Responsible for Foreign Affairs
Member of Parliament