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Third Pro-Kurdish Lawmaker Kicked Out of Turkish Parliament
By Ari Khalidi

The Turkish Parliament on Wednesday announced it stripped the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Tugba Hezer Ozturk of her parliamentary status for failing to attend sessions for over a year.

Several Turkish courts have issued separate arrest warrants for Ozturk, the Parliament's youngest member at 27, on "terrorism-related charges" for her campaign speeches and attending the funerals for fallen Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) guerrillas who fight government forces.

Ozturk who represented a constituency in the Van Province has been in a European country since May 2016, when the Parliament passed a bill that lifted MP immunity from prosecution, disproportionately targeting HDP lawmakers.

The Parliament had previously ousted two HDP lawmakers: the party's former co-leader Figen Yuksekdag in February, and Nursel Aydogan last month following court convictions.

Ozturk also faces the threat of losing her Turkish citizenship along with 129 other people among them another HDP MP Faysal Sariyildiz if she does not return from abroad until September, reported Kurdistan24's Ankara Bureau.

A November 2016 indictment by a Turkish prosecutor in Van demanded an aggravated life sentence for Ozturk accusing her of "separatism" and "terrorism."

The charges directed against Ozturk ranged from "disruption of unity and territorial integrity of the state, disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization" to "membership in a terror group."

Pro-government Turkish media has claimed one of Hezer's brothers was a PKK fighter killed by the army, and her sister remains in the ranks of the US-backed People's Protection Units (YPG) which is leading the war against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria.

With the ouster of Ozturk, the second largest opposition group HDP's number of seats in the Turkish Parliament fell to 56 from its original 59.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government officials have accused HDP of being a political front for the PKK, an accusation that HDP vehemently denied.

An ongoing crackdown on the HDP has seen thousands of arrests against its members nationwide as 11 of its lawmakers, including the party's co-leader Selahattin Demirtas, remain in prison since last year.

Editing by Ava Homa.

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