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Turkey parliament adopts first clause of bill on MPs’ immunity

Parliamentarians attend a swearing-in ceremony at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, June 23, 2015. ©Reuters

Turkey’s parliament has approved a government-backed bill which would strip lawmakers of their immunity from prosecution in a move which critics say targets Kurds and dissidents.

In a secret ballot, 373 MPs in the 550-seat parliament voted for the bill on Friday with a quorum which is sufficient to avoid a referendum on the issue.

The lawmakers were also set to hold two further votes on elements of the bill later in the day, which will determine the final outcome.

Under the Turkish law, members of parliament are immune from prosecution while in office. The police can file “dossiers” against politicians, which can lead to a legal process once they cease to be members of parliament.

The new law will authorize prosecutors to purse the MPs who currently face investigation; 138 deputies, of whom 101 are from the HDP and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

The bill had already led to unprecedented scenes at the Parliamentary Constitutional Committee, with angry legislators exchanging fist and feet blows.

The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) says the legislation is essentially a move to drive its MPs out of the parliament.

The HDP said the bill could lead to the prosecution of 50 HDP legislators out of its total contingent of 59.

Erdogan has called for the prosecution of HDP members, accusing them of being affiliated to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group.

Should a number of HDP lawmakers leave the parliament, it would ease the way for Erdogan to push for his bid to change the constitution and create a presidential system in Turkey.

Tensions have been on the rise between the Turkish government and PKK militants over the military’s campaign in several regions with a majority Kurdish population in the past few months, following a number of deadly bombing attacks in the country last year.

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