Turkey Parliament Approves Bill Lifting Immunity from Prosecution
Turkish lawmakers have voted a controversial bill that will strip them of their immunity from prosecution.
However, pro-Kurdish lawmakers say this is essentially a move to expel opposition members from parliament.
The new law is seen as targeting the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) as well as the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Turkey has led an offensive against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), accused of being a terror group.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses the HDP of being the PKK’s political arm, and has called for pro-Kurdish MPs to face terrorism charges.
This vote could be a first step towards making that happen.
Calling the move “historic” as lawmakers voted, Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a crowd in his hometown of Rize: “My people do not want to see guilty lawmakers in this parliament.”
Critics also say the move aims to strengthen the ruling AK Party and consolidate support in the assembly for the executive presidential system Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to implement.
HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtas said the move was a blow against the people’s will and could not be accepted as democratic.
Selahattin Demirtas said his party would challenge the decision at Turkey’s top court.
The bill was backed by 376 lawmakers in the 550-seat legislature, which means it will become law directly without being put to a referendum.
It now needs to be ratified by the president.
Some 138 lawmakers, the vast majority from the two opposition parties, could be at risk of prosecution.
Violent scuffles marred parliamentary debates this month, with frustrated lawmakers exchanging fisticuffs and kicks.
Today’s vote was not without incident as CHP lawmakers walked out in protest.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said she would raise concerns over the state of democracy in Turkey when she met President Recep Tayyip Erdogan next week.
Angela Merkel, who has led the push to conclude a refugee deal with Ankara, has been criticized by human rights groups for turning a blind eye to violations in Turkey in return for co-operation.