Middle East

Turkey Kurdish leader says 'not afraid' of trial

Co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas delivers a speech on June 5, 2016 in Istanbul during a rally on the lawmakers' immunity. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on May 20 lauded as "historic" a hotly-contested bill that could see dozens of MPs including pro-Kurdish lawmakers evicted from parliament. / AFP / OZAN KOSE

ISTANBUL: The co-leader of Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) said on Sunday he was "not afraid" of being put on trial after parliament scrapped the immunity of dozens of MPs in a hugely controversial move.

Selahattin Demirtas and the HDP co-leader Figen Yuksekdag and dozens of other party MPs risk being put on trial and even jailed on accusations of alleged support for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

"We are are not afraid of being put on trial," Demirtas said at a party rally in Istanbul. "But we have the right to wait so that the judicial authority that judges us is a true judicial authority."

He added: "We are being sent before a tribunal to extract a political revenge."

Prosecutors have already opened criminal investigations against Demirtas and Yuksekdag over calls for demonstrations in 2014 that turned violent. Until now, their immunity prevented them from being charged.

Sunday's rally passed off largely peacefully although police detained several participants for brandishing banners supporting the PKK and jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan, an AFP photographer said.

The legislation -- which was approved by parliament on May 20 but still requires President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's approval -- would lift the immunity of 138 deputies from all parties who face potential prosecution.

While the move in principle targets deputies from all parties, the HDP says the move is squarely aimed at evicting its members from parliament.

The HDP, the third largest party group in parliament, says the bill could lead to the prosecution of 50 HDP deputies out of its total contingent of 59.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel last month told Erdogan of her "deep concern" over the law.

 

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