Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stepped up his efforts to have pro-Kurdish lawmakers prosecuted, accusing them of “inciting terrorism” days after a suicide bombing in Ankara that the government blamed on Kurdish rebels.
Erdogan, who earlier this week said he wanted to expand the definition of “terrorism”, urged parliament to move quickly to end immunity from prosecution for lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
His call comes as part of a growing clampdown on opposition media and pro-Kurdish voices that has drawn criticism from Europe.
Earlier, police detained eight pro-Kurdish lawyers in a dawn raid, a day after three academics were arrested on charges of “terrorist propaganda” for signing a petition condemning military actions in operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Turkey has blamed the PKK for a suicide car bombing in Ankara on Sunday that killed 35 people.
As part of efforts to boost security in the wake of Sunday’s blast, Erdogan’s party submitted a plan to parliament yesterday to hire 15,000 new police officers, most in counter-terror divisions.
Parliament has set up a committee to consider stripping five HDP MPs, including leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, of their immunity so they can be tried over their call for Kurdish autonomy.
“We must swiftly finalise the issue of immunities. Parliament must take steps on this issue swiftly,” Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara.
“I no longer see as legitimate political actors the members of a party which is operating as a branch of the terrorist organisation,” Erdogan said, reiterating his claim that the HDP is a PKK front.
Lawmaker Ozgur Ozel from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said that he was “very concerned that the president is behaving like he’s giving orders to parliament”.
Erdogan’s call comes amid rising tension between the authorities and many in the Kurdish minority over the military’s relentless campaign against PKK rebels.
More than 40,000 people have been killed since the PKK took up arms in 1984 to demand more autonomy for Kurds.
The group is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Ankara, Washington and the EU.
After a two-year ceasefire collapsed in the middle of last year, the PKK restarted its fight, calling for “uprisings” in the Kurdish-dominated southeast.
The pro-Kurdish Libertarian Lawyers’ Association (OHO) organisation, which has asked Turkey’s Constitutional Court to declare the military onslaught against the PKK as illegal, said eight of its members were arrested on Tuesday.
A British lecturer at Bilgi University questioned by police for allegedly distributing leaflets calling for Kurdish New Year celebrations was expected to be deported yesterday evening, Turkish media reported.
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