ANKARA (Reuters) - A Turkish parliamentary committee approved late on Monday a bill that strips deputies of immunity from prosecution, paving the way for legislation that members of the pro-Kurdish opposition say is designed to target them and suppress dissent.
Hours earlier, when the committee debated the draft law, a brawl broke out between members of the ruling AK Party and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
The deputies traded kicks and punches and threw water at each other, a Reuters reporter witnessed, prompting members of the HDP to withdraw. The three other parliamentary parties subsequently approved the draft.
Parliament’s general assembly will now debate and vote on the bill, which would strip immunity from members of parliament who currently face investigations.
President Tayyip Erdogan, who founded the AKP, has called for members of HDP to face prosecution, accusing them of being an extension of the outlawed militant group, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Turkish lawmakers are immune from prosecution while in office. The police can file “dossiers” against politicians, which can lead to a legal process once they cease to be members of parliament.
Reporting by Gulsen Solaker; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by David Dolan and John Stonestreet