ANKARA (A.W.)—Ankara’s public prosecutor has launched a bid to strip Armenian Member of Turkish Parliament Garo Paylan’s parliamentary immunity after the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party of Turkey (HDP) Vice Co-chair was accused of insulting “Turkishness” and the Republic of Turkey.
According to Paylan’s office, the investigation has been launched against the Istanbul parliamentarian “for violating Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code” by Ankara’s Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
“Article 301, which is an article of the Turkish Penal Code making it illegal to ‘denigrate Turkishness, the Turkish Republic, the foundation and the institutions of the State,’ has been interpreted by the ECHR [European Court of Human Rights] as ‘a permanent threat to freedom of expression,’ and considered incompatible with the principle of the state of law,” read a part of Paylan’s statement.
Paylan’s office said that the investigation was launched after comments Paylan made in an interview about genocides taking place in Turkey today. According to several sources, “concerned citizens” had complained about Paylan’s 2017 interview with our Canadian sister publication, the Horizon Weekly.
“If crimes are still taking place today, then old crimes cannot be recognized,” Paylan had said in the interview. “Each day, our [HDP] co-chairs and deputies are being killed, imprisoned, just like they were in 1915. First, we have to put a stop to the recent crimes, then maybe if we turn to democratization and have peace, only then Turkey can come to recognize the Armenian Genocide,” Paylan had noted.
The notorious Article 301 has been used in cases against Orhan Pamuk, a famed Turkish novelist and Nobel Laureate, and countless journalists and writers, including Hrant Dink, who was murdered in 2007.
“It, known as the ‘murderer article,’ has been served for demonization and singling the target person out,” read a part of Paylan’s statement released earlier today.
After much criticism, Article 301 was amended in 2008 to require approval from the Minister of Justice to launch investigations.
Paylan is a founding member of the HDP and is a deputy representing the third district in Istanbul. Paylan is also a member of Turkey’s Armenian community and has long been an activist on human rights and Kurdish and Armenian issues.
Prior to being elected to Turkey’s parliament in 2015, Paylan served on the central committee of HDP and also served on the management of Armenian schools in Istanbul. He has long promoted bilingual education and minority rights in Turkey and has been actively engaged in raising awareness on discrimination toward minorities, the rights of the Armenian community in Turkey, Turkish-Armenian reconciliation, and especially the Hrant Dink murder case. Paylan is from a family originally from Malatya.
Three weeks after his first election into Turkey’s Parliament on the HDP list, Paylan spoke to the Armenian Weekly about his path to parliament and the challenges of being an Armenian in Turkey’s political scene.