By Ece Toksabay and Melih Aslan
A Turkish prosecutor has opened an investigation into the head of the pro-Kurdish political party over comments about Kurdish self-rule, Dogan news agency reported on Monday, a move likely to widen the divide between the government and opposition Kurds.
The report comes hours after Prime Minister Davutoglu said he would not include the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in constitutional talks and vowed to ‘bring them into line’.
Violence in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast has flared up since the collapse of ceasefire in July. Fighting has been particularly intense in the last two weeks and the military says more than 210 Kurdish militants have been killed.
But the HDP and its head, Selahattin Demirtas, say that civilians are also dying, something the government denies. Demirtas, a charismatic lawyer turned politician, was one of the participants in a two-day congress of Turkish groups this weekend that called for greater self-governance.
“There will be a Kurdistan reality in the next century. It will have autonomous regions, federal regions… and it may have an independent state,” Demirtas told the congress on Saturday.
“Kurdish people will decide themselves how they want to live here. The rest will respect that decision,” he said.
Dogan said an investigation had been opened against him by the Ankara prosecutor’s office for “crimes against the constitutional order and the functioning of this order”. The prosecutor’s office was not immediately available for comment.
Ankara has long opposed Kurdish self-rule.
The prosecutor’s office in the city of Diyarbakir in the southeast – where the congress was held – started an investigation into the meeting, sources in that office said.
As a member of parliament, Demirtas enjoys immunity from such cases, although he could be prosecuted and the sentence suspended until a time when he no longer has immunity.
Demirtas came under heavy criticism from the government after a visit to Moscow last week where he criticised Ankara for shooting down a Russian warplane last month. Davutoglu said the comments were treasonous.
On Monday Davutoglu said it would not be appropriate to include the HDP in discussions over a new constitution because of its “insulting” comments. He gave no example, but the party has been highly critical of Davutoglu and the ruling AK Party over policies in the southeast.
“If they think I will tolerate their insults they are mistaken,” Davutoglu said. “Either they will be serious and our door will be open for them or we will bring them into line.”
Following the government’s sweeping election victory in November, it is now starting negotiations on a new constitution aimed at creating a presidential system. Davutoglu said he would hold constitutional talks with the other opposition parties.
Turkey’s Kurdish issue has also been complicated by US support for Kurdish forces in Syria. A US-backed alliance of Syrian Kurds and Arab rebel groups captured a dam on the Euphrates river from Islamic State on Saturday, a military advance likely to also worry Ankara.
Davutoglu said Turkey would not look positively on Syrian forces hostile to Ankara moving to the west of the Euphrates. However, Davutoglu said the government’s current information showed that the groups that crossed the Euphrates over the weekend were Arabs, not Kurdish, forces.