Protests in Turkey against lifting of lawmakers' immunity

AP News
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Posted: Jun 05, 2016 4:21 PM

ISTANBUL (AP) — Thousands of people participated in rallies organized by a pro-Kurdish, opposition party on Sunday to protest against the abolition of immunity of some Turkish members of parliament.

More than 1,000 demonstrators gathered in Istanbul and around 3,000 others convened in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in protests organized by the People's Democratic Party, or HDP. Demonstrations in other cities were banned by authorities.

Last month, Turkey's parliament approved amendments to the constitution that clear the way for the prosecution of nearly 140 legislators, many of them from the People's Democratic Party, or HDP.

"In the coming days our trial is going to start," HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas said in Istanbul. "We aren't afraid to be on trial, but it is our right to expect to be judged by a real judicial authority. Is there something like that? There is not."

The amendment was proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party after Turkey's president accused the HDP of being an arm of outlawed Kurdish rebels and demanded their prosecution on terror-related charges.

Demirtas said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was still seeking revenge for HDP's electoral win in June last year, when the party secured enough votes to enter parliament.

"This is why he is using the tanks, panzers, and cannons in a merciless way against the crowds," he said in reference to a series of large-scale security operations in southeast Turkey.

Demirtas also attended the demonstration in Diyarbakir later in the day. The gathering was timed to mark the anniversary of a bombing in the southeastern city that killed two people and injured scores of others during an HDP rally before last year's general election.

The Turkish state has been locked in renewed conflict with Kurdish fighters since last summer when a 2 ½-year truce with the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, collapsed. Kurdish rebels have set up trenches, barricades and explosives to keep the authorities out of areas where they want autonomy.

Turkey and its Western allies consider the PKK, which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state in a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, a terrorist organization.

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Mucahit Ceylan in Diyarbakir and Bram Janssen in Istanbul contributed reporting.