Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party, also known as the HDP, has been financially supporting terrorism and should pay a due price for what he calls harming the nation.
The Turkish premier made the remarks in a speech broadcast on national television on Sunday, two days after nine HDP lawmakers, including its co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, were taken into custody on charges of membership in and promotion of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is considered as a terrorist group by Ankara.
“For years, we called on you to say you are against terror and terrorist organizations. You would not listen … For years, they (the HDP) transferred the money we sent for the municipalities to terror,” Yildirim said.
“Whoever harms this nation will pay for it, there is no other way. Not only those bombing and burning, but also those supporting terror,” he added, with an apparent reference to the HDP.
Earlier in the day, the HDP announced that it had decided to partially halt its legislative activities, including participation in general assembly sittings and parliamentary commission meetings, in protest at the arrest of its leaders and some of its lawmakers.
“As a result of discussions we held with our parliamentary group and the central executive board, we have decided to halt our works in the legislature in the face of the most extensive and the darkest attack of our history and meet with our people once again,” the HDP spokesman Ayhan Bilgen said on Sunday, after the conclusion of a party meeting in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir.
He added that in the coming days, the party’s representatives would travel across the country in a bid to listen to complaints and suggestions from the people and hold discussions with NGOs, unions, trade bodies and faith groups.
Co-leaders of Turkey’s Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas (L) and Figen Yuksekdag
The HDP, Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party, is the third biggest in the 550-seat parliament, with 59 seats in its control.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Yildirim also warned the party about betraying the Turkish people if its deputies refused to attend parliament sessions.
The HDP co-leaders face prosecution under the country’s anti-terrorism law after the Turkish parliament stripped them of their parliamentary impunity earlier this year. The HDP leaders, however, vowed in June they would not cooperate with officials on the investigation and would refuse to testify.
According to a Friday report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news
agency, the pair was taken into custody after they refused to appear in court to give testimony in connection with an investigation launched by Diyarbakir’s chief public prosecutor.
The arrests seem to be part of a large-scale operation against the party. Following his detention, the charismatic leader Demirtas announced that he had fallen victim to a civilian coup led by the government and the presidential palace.
Meanwhile, Anadolu claimed that two other HDP lawmakers, whose arrest warrants have been issued, took part in a pro-PKK rally in Brussels, Belgium, and delivered speeches on Saturday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly accused the HDP of being the political wing of the PKK, calling for pro-Kurdish lawmakers to face terrorism charges.
He has also in the past stressed that the removal of officials and civil servants accused of having links to the PKK is a critical move in the fight against the group.