Turkish lawmakers on hunger strike for jailed deputies

ANKARA – 18-12-2013 – Hurriyet – Four lawmakers from the newly founded People’s Democracy Party (HDP) start a hunger strike in protest at a recent court ruling, which did not release five deputies from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP)

 “There’s one law for Kurds and Kurdish lawmakers and another law for Turks and Turkish lawmakers.They paved the way for this dichotomy in Turkey by torpedoing all efforts for peace, reconciliation and resolution. We are taking action to ensure the reversal of those rulings. They have nothing to do with the law, they are totally political,” HDP co-chair Ertuğrul Kürkçü told reporters on Dec. 17 at Parliament before starting the hunger strike.Fellow HDP co-chair, Sebahat Tuncel, also joined the strike, along with lawmakers Sırrı Süreyya Önder and Levent Tüzel. The four decided to start the hunger strike to protest the decisions made by the Diyarbakır 5th and 6th High Criminal Courts’ refusal to release five jailed lawmakers elected from the BDP, which is the HDP’s sister party.

Hopes for the release of the five BDP deputies had heightened after the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) deputy Mustafa Balbay was released from jail on Dec. 9, pending appeal, after the Constitutional Court ruled on Dec. 4 that his pre-trial detention had violated his rights. Balbay pledged his oath in Parliament on Dec. 10 after nearly five years in prison in the Ergenekon coup plot case.

The BDP lawmakers Gülser Yıldırım, Selma Irmak, İbrahim Ayhan, Faysal Sarıyıldız and Kemal Aktaş were elected from prison in the June 2011 general elections. They were detained in 2009 and 2010 on charges of having links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and are still being held, pending verdicts.Several academics had argued that the Constitutional Court ruling over Balbay’s appeal would set a precedent for other jailed MPs. However, the Diyarbakır courts denied that the top court ruling set a precedent for other lawmakers. Rejection of the demand to release the BDP lawmakers is a blow against the law in force, Kürkçü said.

“This is a defiant decision. Courts have no right to give such rulings. Because, the Constitutional Court takes place at the top of the judicial hierarchy, it determines the legal norms; all lower courts should abide by its rulings,” Kürkçü said.The HDP co-chair added that they would stage their hunger strike until the end of budget debates in Parliament on Dec. 20, after which they would discuss whether or not to continue. Commenting over the protest, Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek expressed his objection to staging a hunger strike in Parliament. “Parliaments are places to talk; they are not places of demonstration. If Parliament becomes a place of demonstration, I’m afraid we will have problems soon,” Çiçek said. Meanwhile, the Diyarbakır Bar Association issued a complaint against the judges who rejected release demands from the BDP lawmakers to the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) on the grounds that they committed an illegal act by not abiding by the Constitutional Court ruling.