The parliamentary status of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Van deputy Tuğba Hezer Öztürk and Şırnak deputy Faysal Sarıyıldız was removed in a vote on Thursday due to their “absence” from Parliament, the t24 news website reported on Thursday.
While the status of Öztürk was removed with 324 votes, Sarıyıldız lost his status with 328 votes, decreasing the number of HDP deputies in Parliament to 55.
The Joint Parliament Commission on June 14 recommended removal of the status of Öztürk, upon which HDP Ankara deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder protested, saying the recommendation was made on political grounds.
The parliamentary status of HDP Co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ was removed in February after the Supreme Court of Appeals in September 2016 upheld a jail sentence handed down to her in 2013.
HDP deputies launched a series of protests on Tuesday that will continue until Nov. 4, the anniversary of the imprisonment of HDP Co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş along with eight other party deputies. The HDP is expected to hold its group meetings in different provinces, where watches will be staged for a week, rather than in the Turkish Parliament, to draw attention to the situation of the imprisoned deputies.
Demirtaş, along with Yüksekdağ and seven other HDP politicians, were detained on Nov. 4, 2016 and ultimately arrested on charges of terrorism.
There are currently 11 HDP deputies behind bars in Turkey after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government stepped up a crackdown on Kurdish politicians last fall. Trustees have been appointed to dozens of municipalities in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast, while hundreds of local Kurdish politicians have been arrested on terror charges.
The developments have attracted widespread criticism from the region and Western countries.