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Opposition MP faces removal of parliamentary immunity due to chemical weapons remarks

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A Turkish prosecutor has filed a summary of proceedings for an opposition lawmaker that may cause him to lose his parliamentary immunity, accusing him of disseminating terrorist propaganda in remarks about the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Turkish army against Kurdish militants, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office filed the proceedings for main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu, also a lawyer and a human rights activist.

Turkey has strongly denied allegations that appeared in media outlets close to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) last month that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) were using chemical weapons in its counterterrorism operations in northern Iraq.

Tanrıkulu said in a tweet on Oct. 19 that he examined video images and would bring the issue to parliament’s agenda through a parliamentary question he would submit the following day on the authenticity of the images.

He said it was very odd for Turkish government officials not respond to the accusations.

The lawmaker has attracted criticism even within his own party due to his remarks, with party spokesperson Faik Öztrak expressing disapproval of Tanrıkulu questioning the Turkish military’s alleged use of chemical weapons against militants of the PKK, which is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

Öztrak said the TSK has not resorted to the use of chemical weapons against PKK militants even when they carried out their deadliest attacks, adding that the Turkish military has a clean record on that.

In the proceedings the prosecutor asked for the removal of Tanrıkulu’s parliamentary immunity, granted by the 83rd Article of the Turkish Constitution.

In a similar development, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the head of Turkey’s doctors’ union, was arrested on Oct. 27 on allegations of spreading terrorist propaganda after she urged a probe into the army’s alleged use of chemical weapons against Kurdish militants. The arrest of Fincancı, also a prominent human rights defender, has attracted widespread condemnation from rights activists from within and without Turkey.

The prosecution of members of Parliament has been possible since the CHP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) lent support to a 2016 proposal submitted by the ruling AKP on removing deputies’ immunity from prosecution. The immunity of all deputies who faced prosecution was lifted in May 2016.

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