Opposition HDP co-chairs, lawmakers detained in police raids

Opposition HDP co-chairs, lawmakers detained in police raids

Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-leaders of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and 10 lawmakers from the party were detained early on Nov. 4 in a move that threatens further instability for the country.

The detentions were conducted as part of “terrorism” investigations carried out by prosecutor’s offices in the southeastern provinces of Diyarbakır and Şırnak and the eastern provinces of Hakkari, Van and Bingöl.

“The authorities are at my door of my house in Diyarbakır with a subpoena decision,” Demirtaş tweeted early on Nov. 4 before he was detained by anti-terror police. Demirtaş’s lawyers, HDP deputy head Meral Danış Beştaş, HDP deputy Ahmet Yıldırım from the eastern province of Muş, as well as many other party members showed up at his house for support.

Demirtaş was sent to a courthouse in Diyarbakır with a demand for his arrest following his detention. Yüksekdağ was also dispatched to a court with a demand for her arrest.

Yüksekdağ was detained at her home in Ankara. The police broke down the door of her house in Ankara, prompting her to react strongly to the police officers.

“What do you think you’re doing by entering my house like bandits?” Yüksekdağ said, as police tried to prevent video footage from the raid being recorded.

In addition to Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ, Şırnak lawmakers Ferhat Encü and Leyla Birlik, Hakkari lawmakers Selma Irmak and Abdullah Zeydan, Diyarbakır lawmakers İdris Baluken, Nursel Aydoğan, Ziya Pir and İmam Taşçıer, Ankara lawmaker Sırrı Süreyya Önder and Mardin lawmaker Gülser Yıldırım were taken into custody by the police. Faysal Sarıyıldız and Tuğba Hezer Öztürk could not be detained by Turkish authorities because they are currently abroad.

Pir was released on condition of judicial control.

‘Representative of hundreds of thousands of voters’

Tension rose during detentions as police tried to force lawmaker Baluken to get inside the police vehicle, while people around reacted to the incident.

“Get your hands off me! I represent thousands of votes. You can’t shove my head and take me like that,” said Baluken, before entering the police car and being detained.

According to a written statement from the Directorate General of Press and Information of the Prime Ministry, the lawmakers were detained for failing to appear in response to summons by prosecutors asking for testimony in a terrorism propaganda case.

The constitutional immunity from prosecution was lifted for all parliamentarians in a vote in May, although the HDP was affected most severely by the move, with a large number of its MPs facing cases for alleged terrorist propaganda.

“As known, those who refuse to respond to summons by prosecutors asking for their testimony in probes and hence break the laws are taken into custody so as to take their testimony. The constitutional amendment on lifting the parliamentary immunity of parliament members passed with 376 votes at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in May without a need to hold a referendum,” read an announcement from Turkish authorities.

The Diyarbakır Chief Prosecutor’s Office said in a written statement that the detention and search warrants were issued due to “strong suspicions based on solid evidence.”

There was an ongoing investigation on accusations of “being a member of an armed terror organization and terrorist propaganda,” the statement said, adding that the political immunity of the lawmakers had been lifted by parliament.

Anadolu Agency said the detentions were ordered because the politicians refused to testify in probes that were launched against them over crimes against the constitutional order after they attended a meeting of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) in Diyarbakır between Dec. 26 and 27, 2015.

Detentions lawful, Justice minister claims

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ criticized HDP lawmakers for not appearing to give testimony which left no any other means than summoning them by force.

“[The prosecutor] summons and they did not go; what other solution is left? The only means left is to summon them by force,” Bozdağ said Nov. 4.

“What should be criticized is not the justice, it is the ones who violate the constitution and state of law while saying they are respecting the law, [as well as violate] the necessity of the democratic state of law and the constitution by failing to heed the summons [of the prosecutors],” he said.

Bozdağ stated that everyone is equal before the law and that the MPs were taken within the scope of the law.

“What is happening is that Turkey is a state of law and everyone is equal before the law,” he said. “The law that is implemented for everybody is also implemented for the lawmakers. Why do you feel uncomfortable with equality?”

Strict security measures were taken around the HDP building in Ankara, with the police setting up barricades on the roads leading to the building and deploying water cannon.

Meanwhile, a nationwide internet blackout blocked access to internet-based applications WhatsApp, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook on Nov. 4. Many people complained that applications had slowed down and that it was only possible to access information with VPNs. The ban on these applications has not been confirmed by officials yet.

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said the internet connection issues were part of measures taken for “security purposes” and that they were temporary.

‘Footsteps of fascism’

The first statement from the HDP came from HDP spokesperson Ayhan Bilgen, who said that the detentions are the “footsteps of a regime of oppression and fascism.”

“We view the stance against all of our administrators who have been detained until this point or called to testify as an attempt at liquidation,” said Bilgen in a statement. “We view this is a political lynch attempt, a siege and the footsteps of a regime of oppression and fascism.”

The HDP has been holding a meeting since the start of detentions.

The detentions were also criticized by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), with the party leader and the lawmakers voicing concerns for the future of Turkey.

Speaking in İzmir on Nov. 4, CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said all the actions were being made in an attempt to prepare the foundation for a presidential system in Turkey, adding that those who “came with elections should go with elections.” He also said Turkey was going “in a dangerous direction.”

“We are against the jailing of the people who are thinking, politicians, scientists and journalists despite their views. If you defend democracy, then you should defend that the ones who come with elections should go with elections. Otherwise you’ll slaughter democracy,” he said.

Yıldırım replied to Kılıçdaroğlu’s comments, saying those who come with elections go with elections, but should “pay the price” if they engage in “terror.”

“Politics cannot be a shield for committing a crime. Turkey is a state of law,” Yıldırım told journalists on Nov. 4, adding that HDP members should have given their testimonies.

“The superiority of the law is fundamental,” he added.

CHP deputies Sezgin Tanrıkulu and Ali Şeker were the first deputies from the party to deliver the party’s negative reaction to the detention of their co-parliamentarians. Tanrıkulu said the Turkish parliament was “bombed once again.”

“What’s being done tonight is not only a coup but a move to divide the country. The Turkish parliament has been bombed once again,” Tanrıkulu wrote on his Twitter account.

The detentions were also on the agenda of the European Union, with the bloc’s foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini saying that the EU was “extremely concerned” by Turkey’s arrest of leaders and MPs.

“Extremely worried for arrest of @hdpdemirtas & other @HDPgenelmerkezi MPs. In contact with authorities. Called EU ambassadors meeting in Ankara,” Mogherhini tweeted.

European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur Kati Piri also criticized the detentions.

“Very bad news from Turkey. Again. Now HDP members of parliament are being detained,” Piri said on her Twitter account./IBNA

Source: Hurriyet Daily News