Turkish parliament strips two pro-Kurdish lawmakers of status

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey’s parliament said it had stripped two lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish opposition HDP of their parliamentary status on Thursday, further reducing the party’s strength in the assembly two months ahead of elections.

The move brought the number of seats held by the Democratic Peoples’ Party (HDP), the second-largest opposition party in the assembly, down to 48. It won 59 in the last election in November 2015, but 11 have since been stripped of their status.

The latest move by the parliament came after a court found lawmakers Osman Baydemir, the HDP’s former spokesman, guilty of insulting police and Selma Irmak was convicted of membership of a terrorist organization.

The HDP said Irmak had been jailed. Turkish media said that another HDP lawmaker, Gulser Yildirim, had been sentenced to more than seven years in jail on Thursday over links to terrorism. Seven other pro-Kurdish lawmakers are in detention pending trial.

The government says the HDP is an affiliate of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged an armed insurgency in the largely Kurdish southeast for more than three decades. The HDP denies direct links to the PKK.

Since a failed coup attempt in July 2016, the government has carried out a widespread crackdown on suspected supporters of the abortive putsch, jailing and dismissing tens of thousands of people, including several HDP lawmakers.

President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday called early elections, bringing presidential and parliamentary votes forward by more than a year so that Turkey can switch to the powerful new executive presidency that was narrowly approved in a divisive referendum last year.

Reporting by Gulsen Solaker; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Andrew Roche