Turkey's ruling AK Party and opposition lawmakers have brawled over changes to the constitution that could pave the way for prosecuting politicians. Multiple injuries reported after political tensions turn physical.
Widely shared footage circulated on social media late Monday showing lawmakers from the ruling AKP and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) exchanging blows in a committee room.
Parliament's constitutional committee had been meeting to discuss an AKP-backed proposal to strip MPs of their immunity from prosecution, after last week's session also broke up in physical violence.
Turkish lawmakers are constitutionally immune from prosecution while in office. Police can file dossiers against politicians, which can lead to a legal process only after the elected official is officially stripped of their title.
But the proposed change, championed by the Islamist-rooted AKP founded by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, would strip members of parliament of their legal immunity.
Erdogan: HDP 'not legitimate political actors'
Erdogan has called for members of the HDP to face prosecution, accusing them of being an extension of the outlawed militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus of the AKP deplored the chaos inside the legislature and put the blame on HDP.
"No one should hope to push the government into backing out (of its plans) with this kind of behavior," he warned, adding that "whatever happens, the demand to lift the immunity (of lawmakers)... will be presented to parliament."
Meanwhile, the HDP has released statements via Twitter saying its members have been hospitalized with injuries. The party also released a slowed-down version of the scuffles it says proves that its members were struck first by AKP members.
The HDP says the bill is directed at its members and warned that prosecutions would only hamper efforts to restart peace talks between the Turkish state and PKK.
Over the years, Turkey's Constitutional Court has disbanded several of the HDP's predecessors for allegedly violating the constitution by advocating secession.
Washington-based journalist Aliza Marcus - who was expelled from Turkey in the 1990s for alleged PKK sympathies - took to Twitter warning that Ankara's zeal to shut down the HDP was merely repeating past mistakes.
Thousands of militants and hundreds of members of security forces and civilians have been killed since a two-and-a-half-year ceasefire between the government and the PKK collapsed last summer.
The PKK - listed as a terror group by the EU, US and Turkey - has been fighting an insurgency for minority rights and political autonomy for Turkey's Kurds since the 1980s in a long-running conflict that's left more than 40,000 dead.
jar/rc (Reuters, AFP)