Turkish parliament takes first step towards expelling another Kurdish deputy

A joint commission of the Turkish parliament’s constitutional and justice commissions will convene on Jan. 20 to discuss accusations against Kurdish deputy Semra Güzel, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Wednesday.

The procedure marks the first step towards lifting the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy of her parliamentary immunity and ultimately expelling her from the Grand National Assembly.

Several HDP deputies have been stripped of their seats in recent years and prominent party figures including former co-chair and presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş remain behind bars on what their supporters say are politically motivated charges.    

Güzel stands accused of membership of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been partner to an internal conflict with the Turkish state for two decades. The PKK is designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

“The joint commission will do what is necessary,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said at the parliamentary group meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Wednesday. “We do not want to see such people in our parliament,” he added.

During the meeting, Erdoğan presented images of Güzel alongside a man in guerrilla uniform believed to Volkan Bora, a PKK member who was killed in 2017, according to Anadolu.

In a statement, Güzel said she had been engaged to Bora during her time as a medical student, but the pair had lost contact after he fled Turkey to escape police investigations into his journalism in 2009.

The deputy said the photos showing her with Bora were subsequently taken in 2014, when they reconnected during peace talks between Turkey and the PKK.

 “Under the positive atmosphere of the peace process between 2013 and 2015, I, like many others trying to reach their children, parents and loved ones, tried to reach Bora,” she said.

The pair met at an encampment where Bora was staying.

“Considering the government itself held meetings with the other side at a time when millions of people, not only myself, held high hopes for the future and desired peace, these photos cannot be used as attempts to slander and conspire against me,” Güzel said.

The photos were taken four years before she was elected to parliament, at a time when she was not affiliated with any political party, the deputy added.

In the indictment against Güzel, Ankara’s chief public prosecutor said it was impossible for someone outside of the PKK’s military hierarchy to visit the camp and wear a uniform matching the group’s members, according to Etkin News Agency (EHA).

Parliamentary Speaker Mustafa Şentop told reporters on Monday that he was in favour of lifting Güzel’s immunity.

“In terms of crimes against the constitutional order, I am of the opinion that immunity should be lifted for severe criminal cases and a trial should be permitted,” Anadolu cited him as saying.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy group chairman Engin Altay also condemned Güzel, saying his party “cannot approve of any politician’s or political party’s relations with terrorists and terrorist organisations”.

The HDP currently faces closure by Turkey’s Constitutional Court over the party’s alleged links to the PKK.

If the case brought by state prosecutors is successful, 451 HDP representatives including deputies and local party chairs could be banned from holding political office for five years.

On Jan. 6, Bekir Şahin, the state prosecutor leading the closure case, said the HDP “continues the same comments and actions” that triggered the lawsuit in the first place.

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