The Release of Idris Baluken and Arrest of Meral Danış Beştaş and Ayhan Bilgen

On 30 January 2017, Mr Idris Baluken, deputy co-chair of HDP’s parliamentary group, was released at the first hearing of his case in Diyarbakır. Mr Baluken had been in Kandira F-Type prison since November 4, 2016. The court justified its release decision by pointing out that the evidence for the case was gathered, that Mr. Baluken was a parliamentarian and that there were leading cases of the Constitutional Court regarding previously arrested deputies in the context of KCK and Ergenekon cases. The release of Mr Baluken could be a leading case for imprisoned HDP MPs. Yet, there were other developments on the same day that undermined our optimism for the release of other HDP MPs in the near future.

On January 27, Ms Meral Danış Beştaş and on January 29, Mr. Ayhan Bilgen, spokesperson of HDP, had also been detained and then released with judicial control. However, upon the objection of the prosecutor, the court issued arrest warrants for both MPs on January 30, right after the release of Mr Baluken. Ms. Beştaş and Mr. Bilgen were arrested and sent to prison on January 31. Thus, the number of arrested HDP deputies has reached twelve, again.

The only charge against Ms Beştaş and Mr Bilgen is based on HDP’s official twitter account’s sharing on 6 October 2014 that calls upon people to protest ISIS attacks on the Kurdish town of Kobane in Syria. The content of the social media sharing is as follows: “Everywhere is Kobane from now on. We call for incessant resistance until the siege in Kobane and the brutal aggression end. All international institutions, NGOs, labor, women and youth organizations must act against the atrocity in Kobane.” Obviously, this social media sharing does not involve any element inciting people to violence. During the protests the police used extreme violence, over 50 people were killed between 6th and 8th of October 2014, the overwhelming majority of whom were members or sympathizers of the HDP. It is crucial to highlight that after the protests, Mr Idris Baluken, deputy chair of HDP parliamentary group, tabled a resolution for the formation of a parliamentary commission to investigate the murder of protestors, but the majority AKP and MHP deputies rejected this resolution.

HDP’s call for protesting the siege of Kobane has been raised as a charge against all members of HDP Central Executive Board (CEB) of the time. While some of the former CEB members were released after their testimonies at prosecutors’ offices, others like Mr. Bilgen and Ms Beştaş were arrested and sent to prison. This clearly shows the arbitrary and political nature of the court’s decision.

The arrest of Mr Bilgen and Ms Beştaş on the day Mr. Baluken was released could be viewed as a political design of the AKP-Erdoğan regime to maintain and consolidate its support from ultranationalist groups in the lead-up to the referendum. Or, multiple groups within the state apparatus are trying to settle their scores using the HDP as a battleground. That is, different sectors within the state apparatus may diverge over what to do with HDP and its MPs in the referendum process and the arrest of Mr Bilgen and Ms Beştaş may well be retaliation for Mr Baluken’s release. We should also remember that on the day Ms Leyla Birlik, MP for Sirnak, was released after two months of imprisonment (on January 4, 2017), nine of HDP’s Istanbul administrators, including the two co-chairs Mr Doğan Erbaş ve Ms Aysel Güzel, were arrested and sent to prison.

The release of Mr Idris Baluken is unfortunately not the harbinger of a possible normalization in Turkey’s politics in the eve of the referendum. We take up the arrests of Mr Bilgen and Ms Beştaş as a clear sign of further persecution of HDP deputies, administrators and members as we get closer to the referendum date.

Hişyar Özsoy
Deputy Co-chair of HDP Responsible for Foreign Affairs
Member of Parliament
1 February 2017

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