Turkey’s opposition parties have criticized the detention of dozens of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) members, saying that the move is politically motivated.
Turkish police on Sept. 25 detained dozens of HDP members, including the co-mayor of the eastern province of Kars, over 2014 violent protests against the siege by ISIS of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane.
Detention warrants were issued for a total of 82 people in seven provinces as part of an investigation carried out by Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor Yüksel Kocaman, who recently drew ire for visiting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the presidential palace after his wedding.
Protesters flooded streets in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast in early October 2014, outraged over the Turkish government’s inaction in protecting Syrian Kurds as ISIS besieged Kobane, just across the Syrian border. The protests led to the deaths of 37 people, as members of Turkish Hizbullah also took to the streets. Ankara accuses the HDP of inciting violence.
The detentions on Sept. 25 are the latest in the government’s crackdown on the HDP. The party is often accused of having links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its former co-chairs, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, have been imprisoned for nearly four years.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) became the first opposition party to slam the detentions, with various deputies releasing messages of condemnation.
In a press briefing, CHP Group Deputy Chair Özgür Özel deemed the detentions “an intimidation operation” and asked the government whether new evidence was reached regarding the protests that happened six years ago.
He also said that both Kars Co-Mayor Ayhan Bilgen and former deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder have testified over these accusations before.
Bilgen was previously arrested on the same accusations regarding Kobane protests and remained behind bars for 8.5 months. He then took the case to the Constitutional Court, saying that he was accused of being in a Central Executive Board (MYK) meeting that he hadn’t attended. The court ruled in favor of Bilgen and ruled for a rights violation.
“Ayhan Bilgen is the mayor of a province. If the prosecutor had summoned him to get his testimony, he would’ve went. However, they forcefully take him from home and release that footage to the media,” Özel told reporters.
“When Sırrı Süreyya Önder was arrested, these allegations were asked to him and he defended himself. He wasn’t sentenced over these and was released. So the case was closed,” he added.
Gov’t ‘trying to shift the focus from crumbling economy’
According to Özel, the recent detentions are attempts of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to shift people’s focus from the crumbling economy.
“Mr. Mithat Sancar said today that most of those killed during the protests were HDP members. This is an important fact,” Özel said, referring to HDP co-chair Mithat Sancar.
Another CHP deputy to slam the detentions was Gülizar Biçer Karaca, who said that a state can’t be governed with “grudge,” while also echoing Özel’s remarks on the government’s efforts to shift public attention from the economy.
CHP MP Sezgin Tanrıkulu branded the detentions as “a gift to the presidential palace.”
“The reason for their detention is Oct. 6-8, 2014 Kobane protests. Six years have passed, they were probed, have testified and were tried. These detentions are a wedding gift to the presidential palace,” Tanrıkulu said, referring to Kocaman’s visit to Erdoğan.
CHP Istanbul deputy Gürsel Tekin also slammed the detentions, saying that they are politically motivated.
“Trying to criminalise the HDP and the democratic political arena is a major harm done to Turkey. The presidential palace, which expects to benefit from polarization via raising the tensions in the society, is destroying the peace and welfare of 83 million,” Tekin tweeted.
‘State must be ruled with justice’
A lawmaker from the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) said that it would be absurd to think that the detentions are based on the law.
Mustafa Yeneroğlu, a former AKP deputy, noted that “a state must be ruled with justice.”
“An understanding of politics that instrumentalizes the judiciary would make terrorist groups happy as it crushes the sense of justice,” he said.
Future Party calls on the government to share new evidence
Future Party spokesperson Selim Temurci, meanwhile, said that a democratic Turkey can’t be reached via terrorizing political rivals.
“Terror is a red line for all of us. However, we can’t reach a more democratic Turkey by terrorizing our political rivals and making the judiciary a tool for that,” Temurci said.
“We need to stand firm against oppression and injustices regardless of our political beliefs,” he added.
He also called on the government to share new evidence if there are any, since the detentions were carried out six years after the incident.
“Would these detentions take place if the HDP was a part of the People’s Alliance?” Temurci asked, referring to the alliance between the AKP and the MHP.
The Future Party is led by Ahmet Davutoğlu, the former prime minister. He was on duty at the time of the protests and Demirtaş had said that he didn’t act to prevent the cities from falling into chaos.
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