Three members of Turkey’s parliament had their seats revoked and were subsequently arrested late on Thursday, kicking off protests and condemnations.
Two members of pro-Kurdish left-wing opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Leyla Güven and Musa Farisoğulları, were convicted of terrorism-related charges, while Enis Berberoğlu of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) was convicted of revealing state secrets. The court orders were read out during a parliamentary session, terminating their status as deputies.
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, after expressing support for Berberoğlu as the revocation was announced, issued a video message on Friday and said, “Such things happen where there is no democracy or justice.”
Without mentioning the two other deputies, Kılıçdaroğlu said Berberoğlu was one of the people who paid the price for the struggle for justice. “CHP members will be the first to take it on if there is a price to be paid in this fight,” he said.
“Once again the CHP bears the brunt of the struggle for democracy,” former consul general Aydın Selcen said in a tweet where he shared news of the Turkish authorities targeting HDP deputies as they protested the revocations.
“The government is enacting a coup against democracy. Deputy status was revoked for three members of parliament by orders from the (presidential) palace despite the judicial process continuing at the Constitutional Court,” HDP deputy chairman Saruhan Oluç said in the press briefing following the police’s treatment of the group.
“We said there was a coup, was that wrong?” asked HDP deputy Filiz Kerestecioğlu, accusing the police of unlawful conduct.
While discussions on social media raged, Turkey’s print media was mostly silent.
“Turkish press will go down in history of course, because except for these four, all newspapers published small-print stories on this at the bottom or the side column,” journalist Rıfat Doğan tweeted, alongside photographs of headlines from four opposition-run papers.
“Coups are not made with tanks and rifles alone,” CHP deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu said in an interview. “The government has enacted a coup as it disregarded the outcome of elections, dismissed elected officials and imprisoned deputies.”
CHP Group Deputy Chairman Engin Özkoç meanwhile said in a press briefing, “AKP’s democracy is a guilty democracy. Today it has added another crime to its roster.”
Parliamentary Speaker and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy Mustafa Şentop on the other hand said objections to the revocations were “baseless according to the Constitution and parliamentary bylaws.”
“It shows an ignorance of the law to look for something else behind this, when (in the previous term the) seats of eight deputies were revoked over finalised convictions,” Şentop said.
HDP Deputy Chairwoman Meral Danış Beştaş called June 4 one of the darkest days in Turkish parliamentary history, adding that the revocations were made before the full extent of legal procedures had been completed.
Writer Alp Altınörs tweeted a photograph of Devlet Bahçeli, the ultra-nationalist leader of the AKP’s silent coalition partner, posing with the infamous Turkish mafia boss Alaattin Çakıcı, who was recently released from prison.
Altınörs compared the photograph to another of HDP deputy Güven’s detention, alluding to the lyric of a leftist anthem that says, “What the day brings today is oppression, tyranny and blood.”
The Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), founded by former Economy Minister Ali Babacan after he resigned from the AKP, issued a statement calling the revocation “a political decision” that broke a parliamentary tradition of holding off similar court orders until the end of the legislative term.
“The Grand National Assembly of Turkey is the voice of Turkey, and the breath of our democracy,” the statement said. “The will of the electorate who turned over their right to sovereignty via their votes has been cast aside.”
Turkish authorities have recently carried out a new series of arrests and other legal action targeting Turkey’s opposition parties. Forty mayors who were elected from the HDP in the March 2019 local election in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority regions have been replaced by government-appointed officials and over a dozen arrested on terrorism-related charges.
Other officials condemned Thursday’s revocations, calling them an infringement on democracy.
Journalist Hasan Cemal called the move a coup and a “disregard of the will of the people.”
History scholar Gazi Çağlar said, “An opposition that not yet comprehends that the AKP is an authoritarian crime regime is a supply of breaths that prolongs AKP’s life.”
“In Erdogan’s Turkey everyone who doesn’t agree with the man is labelled ‘terrorist’. What a democracy,” tweeted Kati Piri, European Parliament’s former rapporteur for Turkey.