BDP Deputy Facing Jail Puts Blame On Premier
Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputy Sebahat Tuncel was found by a court to be a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on Sept. 17, with a prison sentence of eight years and nine months and banned from leaving the country for being a member of the organization.
Tuncel accused Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of influencing the verdict. “Erdoğan had said that he ordered the judiciary to do what was necessary and we saw that they did,” Tuncel told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday after learning of the verdict. “This is a judicial and political scandal. The government is using the law against its enemies today. If the problem will be solved by jailing me, then don’t let them wait even a second: Jail me.”
Erdoğan had slammed a group of BDP deputies who hugged some PKK militants that were “conducting a patrol task” last month in the southeastern province of Hakkari.
“You hug terrorists, embrace them and then you say ‘we wanted to say hello.’ The address of the greeting has changed. The pictures in the media already amount to very serious criminal complaints. I believe the justice system will do what is necessary. And then we will do what is necessary,” Erdoğan said.
If the Supreme Court of Appeals approves the sentence, Tuncel will be stripped of her deputyship. “To revoke my membership in Parliament they will have to lift my legislative immunity. My lawyers are preparing to file an objection to the local court’s decision, but the political process may lead us to some other point,” Tuncel said.
Tuncel was previously detained and released in 2007 when she was elected as a deputy while the court case was still proceeding.
She also spoke of the danger of a forthcoming Kurdish-Turkish civil war. “This [government’s] policy is taking us toward an ethnic Turkish-Kurdish clash. The government has to see that; we have been living through the same things for the last 30 years. We have been tortured and arrested. These practices are too familiar for us.”
Tuncel also criticized the legal process, saying she was tried on charges of being a member of an organization called “Partîya Rizgariya Demokrat [PRD – the Democratic Liberation Party in Kurdish],” but the verdict said she was a member of the PKK.
The BDP also condemned the court’s decision yesterday, saying the decision was ‘political’ rather than ‘legal’.
Tuncel’s lawyers will object to the local court’s decision and will bring the case to the Supreme Court of Appeals. The high court will either approve or reject the decision. If the court approves the decision, the prison sentence Tuncel received will be finalized. Still, the decision is required to be read in Parliament in order to revoke Tuncel’s duty as a lawmaker. Following the approval decision, the file will be sent to Parliament again through the Justice Ministry and the Prime Ministry. If the decision is finalized, it will be announced at the General Assembly and this would be enough to revoke Tuncel’s membership in Parliament. Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek’s consent is required for the decision to be announced in Parliament. After Tuncel’s duty is revoked, she will be required to serve a minimum of five years and 10 months of her prison sentence.
A similar instance occurred in the case of Van independent deputy Kemal Aktaş. Although the high court approved the decision regarding Aktaş, the revocation of his parliamentary duty was prevented by the changes made by the Third Judicial Package. A motion, increased the limit to three years for postponing the verdict, and Kemal Aktaş became its first beneficiary. Aktaş had been sentenced to two years and one month in prison, and the verdict was approved by the Supreme Court of Appeals. When this motion passed, Aktaş’s verdict was not read in the General Assembly of Parliament and the file was sent back to the court. Since Tuncel will serve five years and 10 months, she will not benefit from this arrangement.