US concerned lifting immunities will have chilling effect on freedom of speech in Turkey

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United States deputy spokesperson Mark Toner has said that they are concerned that lifting lawmakers’ immunities will have a chilling effect on freedom of speech across Turkey.

During a press briefing on Thursday Toner was asked about the bill appoved by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday that calls for a constitutional amendment to lift the immunity from prosecution of more than 100 lawmakers.

“I’d just say, again, that we’re very concerned that this amendment will have a chilling effect on freedom of speech across Turkey. Look, it’s a common tenet in democratic societies that – or, rather, a common tenet is equality before the law. We believe that the freedom to engage in free speech and political speech is – or should be, rather, protected under the law. And this certainly involves speech by elected representatives of a country’s citizens,” Toner said.

He added that US will continue to closely monitor the developments on that issue and express their concerns to the Turkish Government.

The bill which was proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) on April 12, was passed in Turkish Parliament’s General Assembly with 376 votes on May 20.

The constitutional amendment suggests to lift deputies’ immunity from prosecution, who currently face investigations and mainly targets politicians from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). The bill is to affect a total of 138 lawmakers, 50 of them from HDP.

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