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Last update: 25-Jun-2020 9:57

A risky step on immunities

MURAT YETKİN

  • May 21 2016

By MURAT YETKİNmurat.yetkin@hurriyet.com.tr



The Turkish Parliament approved a bill on May 20 to pass a temporary constitutional change to allow the trial of MPs who have legal cases pending against them by lifting their legal immunities. Some 139 deputies in the 550-seat Turkish Parliament have a total of 682 files against their name. Among those are files against three party leaders: Selahattin Demirtaş of the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has 75 files against him, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has 41, and Devlet Bahçeli of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) has nine.

According to the political party groups, the HDP deputies top the list with a total of 417 files, followed by the CHP with 195, and the MHP with 20. Deputies from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) have 46 files in total. Among the 682 total files, 216 are “terrorism-related,” almost all of which are against HDP deputies, and 201 are “insult” files, mostly related to “insults” targeting President Tayyip Erdoğan. Most of these are against CHP and HDP deputies.

The change voted for on May 20 covers all parties, but the step was initiated by the AK Parti following Erdoğan’s statement that MPs who “talk on behalf of the terrorists” - implying militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) - should not be able to hide behind the cover of parliamentary immunity. He said they should be considered terrorists too. 

Erdoğan was targeting the HDP members of parliament, accusing them of carrying weapons in their cars, attending the funerals of killed militants, and praising them.

The debate is similar to the case 22 years ago, when the immunities of four deputies were lifted, leading to their trial and imprisonment in 1994. That did not help the Kurdish problem get any closer to a peaceful solution.

The bill was approved with the votes of the AK Parti, the MHP and partly the CHP, which was divided over the vote. Without support from within the CHP the bill would have been taken to a referendum. Erdoğan said in a speech right after the vote that the CHP saw that if the bill was taken to a referendum it could have been approved with 70-80 percent support from the public, so some CHP deputies voted to approve it in order to avoid this.

The vote on immunities was another test of Erdoğan’s power ahead of a possible vote for a constitutional change shifting Turkey from a parliamentary to a presidential system in the coming months. Erdoğan may or may not have the MHP’s support for a presidential system - and he is highly unlikely to have support from the CHP and HDP for a strong presidential system - but he is likely to try a referendum. 

This power test has left another mark on the Turkish Parliament’s record of representativeness. After all, the HDP won 59 seats in the Nov. 1, 2015 election, more than the MHP, for example. Terrorism is a heavy accusation to make and there is a thin line between speech and action regarding terrorism-related accusations, especially in Turkey which is engaged in a serious campaign against not only the PKK but also against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), or DAESH using Arabic initials.

What’s more, it may not only be MPs from the HDP that are put on trial. Kılıçdaroğlu has said that no CHP member is afraid of being put in jail for the party’s fight for a better democracy. HDP co-chair Demirtaş has also said his party members are not afraid of being jailed, which would also carry a cost for the ruling AK Parti and Erdoğan. 

Such jailing might trigger reactions in the West, especially within the EU, which is trying to maintain a fragile deal with Turkey over the control of refugees triggered by the Syrian civil war and the reactivation of Turkey’s membership negotiations. The spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on May 20 that she might raise the issue with Erdoğan when she meets him in Istanbul next week during the U.N. Humanitarian Summit. Source

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Some CHP deputies who are wanted, arrested,
imprisoned, accused, convicted or acquitted
Altay-Engin

Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy. Accusations of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in comments he made on a TV program.

Bankoğlu-Aysu Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy. Charged of carrying out terrorist propaganda
Berberoglu-Enis The İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court has imposed an international travel ban on Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Enis Berberoğlu, who was recently released after 15 months of incarceration on espionage charges.
Budak- Cetin-Osman

CHP deputie. May lose his parliamentary immunity to pave the way for potential prosecution.

Cihaner-Ilhan

Former People's Party's (CHP) MP. Will be tried for one to three years in prison

Durmaz-Kadim

CHP deputie. May lose his parliamentary immunity to pave the way for potential prosecution.

   
Erdem-Eren A Turkish court on Monday (7 Jan. 2019) ordered the release on probation of former main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Eren Erdem, who was detained in June 2018 over links to a terrorist organisation, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported
Erdogdu-Aykut

CHP deputie. May lose his parliamentary immunity to pave the way for potential prosecution.

Gaytancioglu-Okan CHP deputie. May lose his parliamentary immunity to pave the way for potential prosecution.
Goker-Mehmet CHP deputie. May lose his parliamentary immunity to pave the way for potential prosecution.
   
Cihaner-Ilhan Former People's Party's (CHP) MP. Will be tried for one to three years in prison.
Kadıgil-Saliha-Sera

16 May 2019:
Proposal to lift immunity of HDP deputies submitted to Parliament
A summary of proceedings of the deputies of the pro-PKK Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) was submitted to Parliament to lift their immunity in the face of their affiliation with the terrorist organization.
Presidency dossiers on the immunity of 21 deputies, including HDP co-chairpersons Pervin Buldan and Sezai Temelli and the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Istanbul deputy Saliha Sera Kadıgil were presented to the Turkish

Kaftancıoğlu-Canan An Istanbul court has accepted an indictment charging the chair of the main opposition party’s Istanbul branch with insulting the president and spreading terrorist propaganda,
Sarı-Hüseyin The dismissal of Erdek mayor Hüseyin Sarı follows the approval of a one-month, 15-day jail sentence over two separate cases of corruption in municipal tenders,
Tanal-Mahmut CHP deputie. May lose his parliamentary immunity to pave the way for potential prosecution
Tanrikulu-Mustafa-Sezgin CHP deputie.Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office has launched an investigation against main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) İstanbul MP due to his social media messages and statements about "Operation Peace Spring" launched by Turkey into northern Syria on October 9
 

 

Yarayici-Hilmi Former People's Party's (CHP) MP. Will be tried for one to three years in prison
Yarkadas-Baris Former People's Party's (CHP) MP. Will be tried for one to three years in prison


23 June 2020:

Turkish court upholds prison sentence for main opposition Istanbul chair Kaftancıoğlu

An appeals court in Ankara has upheld a prison sentence for the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Istanbul provincial chairwoman Canan Kaftancıoğlu, on charges including terrorist propaganda and insulting the president, Habertürk reported on Tuesday.

Kaftancıoğlu was sentenced to nine years, eight months and 20 days in prison in September of 2019 on a string of charges, including  "insulting the president," "inciting people to animosity and hatred," and "conducting propoganda for a terrorist organisation."

The Istanbul provincial head became a rising star in the opposition after the March 31 local elections, and is credited as the person behind the CHP's victory in Istanbul, which had been controlled by Islamist parties since 1994.

The ruling arrives on the anniversary of a revote in Istanbul after the ruling Justice and Development Party contested the initial polls. Kaftancıoğlu may appeal the decision with the Supreme Court.


22 June 2020:

Turkey suspends main opposition CHP mayor in northwestern province of Balıkesir

The Turkish Interior Ministry has dismissed a main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) mayor in the northwestern province of Balıkesir after a court upheld a jail sentence on charges of tender corruption. The dismissal of Erdek mayor Hüseyin Sarı follows the approval of a one-month, 15-day jail sentence over two separate cases of corruption in municipal tenders, Birgün newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The court in the northwestern town of Bandırma ruled that Sarı had  “intentionally prevented free competition in both tenders and ensured the tenders took place with only one participant,” Birgün said.

This is not Sarı’s first removal from the mayoral seat. In March of 2019, the CHP mayor was sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in prison for insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, prompting the Interior Ministry to suspend him from his post.  Sarı was re-elected as mayor of Erdek in the local elections of March 2019, receiving 52 percent support.


2 June 2020.

Turkey suspends main opposition CHP mayor in northwestern province of Balıkesir

The Turkish Interior Ministry has dismissed a main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) mayor in the northwestern province of Balıkesir after a court upheld a jail sentence on charges of tender corruption. The dismissal of Erdek mayor Hüseyin Sarı follows the approval of a one-month, 15-day jail sentence over two separate cases of corruption in municipal tenders, Birgün newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The court in the northwestern town of Bandırma ruled that Sarı had  “intentionally prevented free competition in both tenders and ensured the tenders took place with only one participant,” Birgün said.

This is not Sarı’s first removal from the mayoral seat. In March of 2019, the CHP mayor was sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in prison for insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, prompting the Interior Ministry to suspend him from his post.  Sarı was re-elected as mayor of Erdek in the local elections of March 2019, receiving 52 percent support.


4 June 2020:

The third deputy stripped of his seat, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) member Enis Berberoğlu, was detained an hour after Güven. Berberoğlu had announced earlier that he would be going to the court house early Friday morning of his own volition.

"Why such tyranny for a person who would go to the prosecutor's office himself tomorrow?" tweeted CHP deputy Tuncay Özkan as he announced Berberoğlu's detention.

In 2017, Berberoğlu was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his part in revealing to the public images that appeared to show Turkish intelligence services shipping weapons to Syrian rebels. His sentence was later reduced to five years. Read the full article


25 April 2020:

Prison sentence requested for former CHP lawmaker Eren Erdem

The chief public prosecutor's office of the Turkish appeals court has requested that a prison sentence of four years and two months be approved for former main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Eren Erdem, Anadolu news agency said.

Eren Erdem was detained in June 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement, which Ankara designates as a terrorist organisation and accuses of masterminding the failed July 15, 2016 coup attempt. Erdem was put on trial over his work during his time as the editor-in-chief of Karşı newspaper.

Erdem was acquitted from charges of “revealing the identity of a secret witness” and “violating the confidentiality of a criminal investigation,” but sentenced to prison for “aiding a terrorist organisation purposely and willingly without being involved in the hierarchy of the organisation.”

In January 2019, a Turkish court ordered Erdem’s release due to time he served during the trial. Istanbul’s chief prosecutor’s office objected to the decision, and a new arrest order was issued by a higher court for his immediate re-arrest. Erdem was released on probation in October. Anadolu news agency said that the latest prison sentence request was sent to the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court who will make a final decision regarding the case.


10 March 2020:

Opposition CHP claims gov’t unlawfully removing officials from office

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) has accused Turkey’s ruling party of unlawfully removing its members from municipal offices, news website Diken reported on Tuesday. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) is confiscating CHP municipalities they could not win through elections, it quoted CHP spokesman Faik Öztrak as saying, referring to the local elections of March last year.

Öztrak’s statement follows the removal of Vefa Salman, mayor of the northwestern province of Yalova, and his deputy, Halit Güleç, from office by the Interior Ministry on Feb. 27 as part of a corruption probe. They were both charged with aggravated fraud, forgery of official documents, corruption and other criminal conducts, according to the related legislation.

The ministry had said inspectors found that the municipality's incomes were being transferred to an account normally used to collect taxes and fees, and that payments worth 11.5 million lira ($1.85 million) were made to unknown people.

 “It wasn’t enough that they [the AKP] removed through the order of the Interior Ministry our mayor in Yalova for unveiling corruption. They then ensured the election of an AKP deputy chairman on the Yalova city council,’’ Öztrak said. “They have seized the will of the people in Yalova,’’ he added.



19 December 2019:

CHP politician acquitted of “insulting the president”

The second hearing in the trial of former CHP lawmaker Zeynep Altıok Akatlı on the charge of “insulting the president” took place on 19 December 2019 at Urla 1st Criminal Court of First Instance.

Announcing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted Altıok. She was accused over a social media post in support of students who were arrested for carrying a banner featuring a cartoon titled “Tayyipler Alemi” during Middle East Technical University’s (ODTÜ) 2018 graduation ceremony.


12 November 2019:

Turkey revokes security detail assigned to prominent opposition figure

The Turkish government has revoked a protective detail it previously assigned to Canan Kaftancıoğlu, a prominent member of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) who was recently sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and spreading terrorist propaganda, the Cumhuriyet newspaper reported on Monday. Kaftancıoğlu is currently free on bail pending appeal.

Kaftancıoğlu was notified of the decision on Saturday in a document handed to her by police officers. No justification was provided for the move. In a handwritten note that she added under her acknowledgment of having been served the notification, Kaftancıoğlu underlined that she was not given any reason for the decision and that “the interior ministry bears responsibility for anything that might happen to me.” She tweeted that she is not afraid and that the decision was trivial.

CHP deputy Gökan Zeybek submitted a written parliamentary question directed to Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu inquiring if he was aware of the move and whether he assumes responsibility for any security problems she might encounter. The head of the CHP’s İstanbul branch, Kaftancıoğlu is famous for her role in her party’s local election victory in İstanbul.

She stood trial for allegedly insulting President Erdoğan and spreading terrorist propaganda and was handed down a prison sentence of nine years, eight months in September, which she is appealing with a higher court.She was elevated to “special protection” status by authorities after she and her family received death threats. She was also the target of attacks by Turkey’s pro-government media.


28 October 2019:
Main opposition lawmakers face trial over insulting Turkish president

Sixty officials from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) are facing charges of insulting the president over the party's statement on the 2016 failed coup attempt, left-leaning daily Birgün reported on Monday.

Following the failed putsch of July 15, 2016, which Ankara maintains was orchestrated by followers of the Islamist cleric Fethullah Gülen, the 60 members of the CHP party council, the party’s highest body, released a statement criticising the ruling party and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over their links to the Gülen movement.

The statement accused Erdoğan and Justice and Development Party (AKP) government of helping the Gülen movement to infiltrate Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.

Years before ruling party listed his movement as a terrorist group, Gülen and his followers were praised and supported by top AKP officials during a period when Gülenists in the judiciary and police forces are widely believed to have targeted secularist state officials and military officers in a series of discredited trials.

During the trials, Erdoğan famously declared himself to be the prosecutor to signal his support for the legal action. Courts later overturned the trials, and the president said his party had been tricked by Gülenists.

Responding to the charges against the CHP, party council member and Eskişehir deputy Gaye Usluer said Erdoğan was hiding behind his position as president to undermine his critics.

In Turkey, insulting the president carries a jail sentence of between one and four years.

The Turkish government has charged thousands of citizens for insulting Erdoğan in social media posts, cartoons, news reports and other media since he assumed office as president in 2014.


7 November 2019:

Zeynep Altıok appears in court for “insulting the president”

Former CHP lawmaker Zeynep Altıok appeared in court for the first hearing of her trial for allegedly “insulting the president” on social media, at the 1st Urla Criminal Court of First Instance on 7 November 2019.

Altıok is on trial for supporting students who were arrested for carrying a banner featuring a cartoon titled “Tayyipler Alemi” during a graduation ceremony of the Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) at the time when she was the CHP General Deputy Chair responsible for Human Rights.

Accepting the request of Altıok’s lawyers for additional time, the court adjourned the trial until 19 December 2019.


14 October 2019:

Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office has launched an investigation against main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) İstanbul MP Sezgin Tanrıkulu due to his social media messages and statements about "Operation Peace Spring" launched by Turkey into northern Syria on October 9.

Releasing a written statement about the issue, the Prosecutor's Office has announced that the investigation has been launched against the MP due to his statement "The Government needs to know that: It is an unjust war, it is a war waged against the Kurds" shared on his Twitter account on October 12 and an interview given by him to some media organizations on the same day.

Referring to these statements, the Prosecutor's Office has charged Tanrıkulu with "openly degrading the State of the Republic of Turkey".