Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, has released a statement on Twitter criticizing the Friday removal of the parliamentary status of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Ağrı deputy Leyla Zana.
“It’s unacceptable for representatives who are democratically elected by the people to be unfairly dismissed. We stand in solidarity with our colleague, Leyla Zana,1995 Sakharov Prize winner, who has just been stripped of her seat from the Turkish Grand National Assembly,” Tajani tweeted.
Zana’s status was removed due to inadequate attendance at parliamentary sessions.
In an address to the EP and applauded by MEPs in attendance, Tanjani also said: “I’d also like to express my concern about the repeated human rights violations in Turkey. These aren’t simply aimed at the political opposition, but at members of civil society, including journalists and academics. Nuriye Gülmen, Semih Özakça, Osman Kavala, Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay… Those are just some of the names. The European Parliament will continue to support these people in their struggle for freedom and justice.”
In March 2017, an indictment drafted by a Diyarbakır prosecutor sought up to a 20-year sentence for HDP Ağrı deputy Zana on terror charges.
Zana was released after a brief detention in Diyarbakır in February 2017.
A renowned Kurdish politician, Zana was imprisoned for 10 years for her political activism, which was deemed by the Turkish courts to be against the unity of the state. When she was a member of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), she was prohibited from joining any political party for five years with the Constitutional Court’s decision to ban this party.
She was awarded the 1995 Sakharov Prize by the European Parliament but was unable to collect it until her release in 2004. She has worked extensively to find a peaceful solution to Turkey’s long-standing Kurdish problem.
The third largest party in the Turkish Parliament, the HDP now has 53 seats in the legislature.
Turkey has stepped up its crackdown on Kurdish politicians since 2016. 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.
Ten HDP deputies including Co-chairperson Selahattin Demirtaş and former Co-chairperson Figen Yüksekdağ are still in prison.