Turkey sets in motion prosecution of lawmakers

AP News
Posted: Jun 10, 2016 11:13 AM

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey's Justice Ministry has sent dozens of cases involving 57 lawmakers to public prosecutors after the president lifted their legal immunity, it said Friday.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said 152 parliamentarians in the 550-seat assembly could eventually face prosecution for criminal offenses.

The 152 deputies face 799 charges for offenses ranging from insulting the president to corruption and supporting terrorism.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently approved a constitutional amendment lifting immunity from a pool of lawmakers.

The changes have been criticized by officials in the European Union and Germany and condemned by Turkish opposition lawmakers. Last week, Turkey's highest court rejected a petition by opposition legislators to strike down the legislation.

Erdogan has repeatedly called for the trial of pro-Kurdish lawmakers on terrorism-related charges, publicly accusing them of being an arm of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

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

Most of the lawmakers at risk of prosecution belong to the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party, HDP, or the opposition Republican People's Party. Some 29 deputies from the ruling Justice and Development Party, 10 from the Nationalist Movement Party and one independent could also face charges.

The vast majority of the charges — 511 out of 779 — have been levelled against deputies of the HDP, which entered the assembly for the first time last year.

The HDP, which backs Kurdish and other minority rights, denies accusations that it is the political front of the PKK. The party has urged the government to end security operations in the southeast and to resume peace efforts.