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Turkey opposition to challenge bill on lifting MPs immunity

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag (R), are flanked by fellow lawmakers as they attend a news conference at the entrance of the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, May 20, 2016. (Reuters photo)

Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition has criticized as undemocratic a decision by the parliament to lift immunity of lawmakers, vowing to challenge it at the country’s top court.

Earlier on Friday, 376 MPs in the 550-seat parliament voted in the third and final vote ballot for a government-backed bill which would lift the lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution. The bill will become law once ratified by President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan.

In a news conference on Friday, Selahattin Demirtas, the co-leader of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), said the decision aims to boost the powers of the president who seeks stronger powers in Turkey.

Demirtas further said that the HDP would challenge the decision at the constitutional court.

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

On Friday, Erdogan voiced his support for the bill, saying, "My nation does not want to see guilty lawmakers in this country's parliament. Above all it does not want to see those supported by the separatist terror group in parliament,” referring to the PKK.

A photo taken on May 17, 2016 shows the Turkish Parliament in Ankara during the discussion of the ruling AKP’s proposal regarding the amendment of the immunity in Ankara, Turkey. (AFP photo)

The prosecution of the HDP lawmakers and their departure from the parliament is seen as an attempt to change the constitution and create a presidential system in Turkey which is strongly desired by Erdogan.

Tensions have been on the rise between the Turkish government and the PKK 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.

Some 138 lawmakers, of whom 101 are from the HDP and main opposition CHP, currently face investigation and stripping the lawmakers of immunity will allow their prosecution.

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


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