ANKARA - Turkey took a step towards prosecuting Kurdish deputies accused of militant ties on Tuesday by seeking an end to their immunity, a move which could weaken Kurdish representation in parliament and fuel tension in the southeast.
Ten Kurdish MPs were accused of militant links after they were filmed in August embracing Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels, rifles slung over their shoulders, in images which provoked public outrage.
Turkey has been battling PKK militants near its southeastern borders with Iran, Iraq and Syria since they took up arms almost three decades ago to push for autonomy, in a conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people, mostly PKK members.
The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union.
Kurdish members of parliament have been the subject of frequent investigations, accused of links to the militants, but are protected from prosecution while they are in office, unless the assembly votes otherwise.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday he favored lifting their immunity, and on Tuesday his office forwarded a request from state prosecutors to parliament seeking permission to investigate the 10 deputies, a senior official said.
All but one of them are members of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which has 29 of 550 seats in parliament. If prosecutors are allowed to proceed, the charges they would face could carry jail sentences of five-10 years.