Turkey’s top court accepts indictment seeking to disband pro-Kurdish party

Turkey’s Constitutional Court on Monday accepted an indictment by a top prosecutor seeking to disband a pro-Kurdish opposition party on terror-related charges, The Associated Press reported.

The court ruled in favor of hearing the case against the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), filed by the chief public prosecutor, who is accusing it of allegedly colluding with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and of seeking to “destroy the unity of the state.”

The prosecutor is demanding that the party be dissolved, that it be deprived of treasury funding and that some 450 party members be barred from holding political office for five years.

This was chief prosecutor Bekir Şahin’s second petition seeking the HDP’s closure after the Constitutional Court rejected a previous attempt in March, citing procedural deficiencies.

The court’s rapporteur completed their examination of the indictment and said the previous deficiencies had been fixed. On Friday the rapporteur asked the court to accept the indictment.

The move against the HDP — the second-largest opposition party in Turkey’s parliament — comes amid a widespread government crackdown. Dozens of elected HDP lawmakers and mayors — including former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ — as well as thousands of party members have been arrested on terror-related accusations. Meanwhile, several HDP mayors who were elected in 2019 have been replaced by state-appointed trustees.

Turkey’s president has called HDP members terrorists, while his nationalist party allies have repeatedly called for the party to be shut down. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government has also been behind a general crackdown on dissent ever since a 2016 coup attempt.

On Thursday a gunman attacked the HDP office in Izmir, killing a female employee. The assailant entered the building, fired shots and attempted to set it on fire, the party said.

According to Turkish Minute, HDP co-chairperson Mithat Sancar said in a statement following the top court’s decision that if the Constitutional Court had rejected the indictment against the HDP, it would have sent an important message in name of democracy but that the court chose to miss the historic opportunity to do so.

According to the party’s statement, the indictment against the HDP was not drafted by the chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals but by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) as MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli is a strong supporter of the party’s closure and once described the party as a  “poisonous vermin.”

“We will not let the HDP be closed down. We have the power to make it live by getting bigger. The ruling to come out of this trial concerns not only the HDP. If the top court rules for the HDP’s closure, it will have made a decision to shut itself down, too,” said the party.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) Turkey director Emma Sinclair-Webb termed the top court’s move in a tweet on Monday as a full assault on the HDP and the right of millions who voted for the party.

The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the US. The group has led an armed insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 and the conflict has killed tens of thousands of people.

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