ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party announced Sunday that it will halt its legislative activities in Parliament following the arrests of nine of its lawmakers, a move the prime minister called a mistake.
Peoples’ Democratic Party spokesman Ayhan Bilgen told The Associated Press that the party will stop participating in parliamentary commissions and the parliamentary assembly, but does not plan to withdraw from Parliament.
Pulling out of Parliament is a decision that only can “be made in consultation with the people,” Bilgen said at a news conference in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir.
The party, known as HDP, therefore plans to gauge public opinion following “the most extensive and darkest attack in our democratic political history,” he said.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called on the HDP in a televised speech from the northeastern city of Bayburt to “return from this mistake before it’s too late.”
HDP lawmakers would be disrespecting the voters who elected them if they do not represent them in Parliament, Yildirim said.
“Come to the Parliament and say whatever you want, but no politician can be a shield to terror by abusing their position,” the prime minister said.
HDP co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag were arrested Friday on terrorism-related charges, along with seven other lawmakers. The HDP entered Parliament last year as the nation’s third-largest party with 59 lawmakers.
Turkey’s government accuses the HDP of being the political wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK, which has waged a three-decades-long insurgency against the state. The party rejects the accusation.
In May, Turkey’s Parliament voted to strip lawmakers of legal immunity, paving the way for last week’s arrests. Hundreds of charges were filed against HDP lawmakers following the new measure, and the party decided not to voluntarily appear in court to testify.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at European countries that have condemned the arrests as undermining democracy. He blamed Europe for supporting and arming the PKK.
Erdogan said security forces have captured thousands of weapons from the PKK with Western origins, among them heavy weapons.
“They say they gave the weapons to Iraqi coalition forces and that they (PKK) must have gotten them from there,” Erdogan said without specifying the countries to which he was referring. “Who are you kidding? You are giving these directly to them.”