Selahattin Demirtas will have to serve five months in prison for "insulting" the nation and its institutions. The HDP number two Figen Yuksekdag, already indicted for terrorism, and expulsion from Parliament. For party colleagues there would campaign for the "No" in the constitutional referendum in April behind the repression.
Istanbul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Turkish authorities have punished two Kurdish leader of the main opposition party with imprisonment and expulsion from Parliament. A decision issued yesterday and that fits into the context of purges initiated by the government, on the directive of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, following the failed coup of July. In recent weeks the measures have affected activists and Kurdish politicians, together with intellectuals, civil servants, police and military.
A Turkish court yesterday sentenced Selahattin Demirtas, leader of the Democratic Party of the People (the pro-Kurdish movement HDP), to five months in prison for "insulting" the nation and its top institutions. A few hours earlier the authorities had issued an order of expulsion from Parliament against Figen Yuksekdag, number two of the Kurdish party, already indicted for terrorist offenses.
Both are being held in prison since last November. Thousands of people who joined the HDP party ended up in prison over the past two years. The escalation of arrests and persecution began in 2015, following the failure of peace talks with Ankara leaders. At least 12 of the 59 MPs of the pro-Kurdish party are currently in jail.
In the aftermath of the failed coup d’État in Turkey last July, President Erdogan and the Turkish government have launched a campaign of repression against its alleged perpetrators. These include supporters of Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, believed to have masterminded the coup that left 270 people dead, and thousands wounded.
As well as targeting Kurds, in response to the failed coup, in recent months the Turkish authorities have arrested more than 41 thousand people, including teachers, soldiers, intellectuals, opposition politicians, businessmen, journalists, activists and ordinary citizens. About 100 thousand public sector officials have been suspended or laid off.
However, according to the leaders of the Kurdish party the current campaign of repression has nothing to do with the coup of July. The escalation of arrests is in fact linked to the referendum on constitutional reform, scheduled for April 16 in Turkey. A reform strongly desired by the president, which guarantees further expansion of Erdogan's powers and the ability to stay in office beyond 2019, the actual natural expiry of his mandate.
The Kurdish party is promoting a no campaign having struggled (unsuccessfully) in Parliament to prevent the approval and, therefore, has come under government fire. "It's all related to the referendum," said HDP Parliamentary Hisyar Ozsoy. "The idea is to paralyze the HDP in its organization, so that we cannot continue our campaign for a 'No'"