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Turkey boosts push to strip pro-Kurd deputies of immunity

AFP , Friday 15 Apr 2016
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Views: 1150

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called on two opposition parties Friday to back his push to alter Turkey's constitution, to allow prosecutions of pro-Kurdish lawmakers accused of "terrorist propaganda".

Lawmakers will decide whether to allow the change before the end of the month, according to a parliamentary source.

Since violence re-erupted last summer in the decades-long Kurdish conflict, Turkey's government has stepped up action against individuals it accuses of being "accomplices" of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

These include elected officials of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP).

But to prosecute lawmakers including the principle target of the move, HDP party chief Selahattin Demirtas, their parliamentary immunity must first be lifted by their fellow parliamentarians.

To accelerate the process, the ruling AKP party wants to amend article 83 of the country's constitution which currently states that no parliamentarian suspected of a crime can be questioned, tried or detained without a parliamentary vote.

"The opposition should support the proposal to reform the constitution to authorise legal proceedings against several deputies of pro-Kurdish parties accused of "terrorist propaganda"," Davutoglu said Friday in Kocaeli, in northwest Turkey.

As many as 129 deputies could be subject to legal proceedings if the amendment is adopted by parliament.

Turkey's main opposition parties, the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have both said that they will not object to the government's plan.

With the votes of AKP, CHP and MHP members, the government looks likely to win the two-thirds majority of the parliament's 550 representatives needed to pass the change.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has previously promised to "eradicate" the PKK and its "accomplices", throwing his weight behind the constitutional changes.

"We must hold responsible those who harm the unity of the people," he said recently.

Clashes between the Turkish state and the PKK, which resumed in late July, have upended a 2013 ceasefire that had nurtured hopes of an end to the PKK's three-decade insurgency, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

The PKK took up arms in 1984 with the aim of establishing an independent state for Turkey's Kurdish minority, although in recent years its demands have focused on greater autonomy and cultural rights.

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