Turkey's main opposition party supports bid to strip MPs of immunity

ISTANBUL, April 14 (Reuters) - Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) will support draft legislation by the ruling party that would strip lawmakers of their immunity from prosecution, CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said on Wednesday night.

President Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly called for deputies of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) to face prosecution, accusing them of being an extension of the outlawed militant group, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Kilicdaroglu told broadcaster CNN Turk his party would support the proposal, even though he said it would be contrary to the constitution.

“A measure which is against the constitution has been put forward. We know that, but we will say ‘Yes’ to it,” he said in an interview, adding that nobody should have immunity from prosecution, without giving details.

HDP deputies have criticised Turkey’s large-scale security operations in its mainly Kurdish southeast, where violence has surged since the collapse of a two-year ceasefire with the PKK militants last summer.

The HDP criticism has fuelled Turkish nationalist calls to prosecute politicians seen as close to the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and its Western allies.

All 316 AK Party lawmakers signed Tuesday’s draft proposal, party officials have told Reuters. Lawmakers in Turkey are normally protected from prosecution.

For the AK Party proposal to be accepted without the need for a referendum, it must win the support of 367 MPs in the 550-seat assembly. The CHP has 133 seats.

The HDP is the subject of more than half of some 550 dossiers in parliament calling for the lifting of immunity from prosecution.

The HDP gained 59 lawmakers in last year’s parliamentary election after clearing the 10 percent threshold to enter the assembly. It is the third largest party in the parliament. (Reporting by Gulsen Solaker; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)