Call for Turkey to avoid shutting down pro-Kurdish party ahead of polls

European political parties and left-wing politicians have appealed to Turkey to halt a court case that threatens to shut down the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party ahead of important general and presidential elections in May.

Political parties around Europe have called on the Turkish authorities to halt a case at the Constitutional Court that could close down the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, HDP.

Adding their voices to the outcry, Germany’s Social Democratic Party, SPD and Left Party issued a statement on Tuesday condemning the court case, which comes ahead of vital elections in May in which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party face a strong challenge to their rule.

“We demand an end to the politically motivated court case to ban our sister party HDP,” the German SPD said in a message on Twitter on Tuesday.

“We know from our own past that you can ban our institutions, but you can never silence our ideas for equality, justice and freedom,” it added.

Several other political parties at the EU level also voiced support for the HDP.

“We stand in solidarity with our associate party, HDP who are facing a politically motivated trial initiated by President Erdogan threatening to ban them from the upcoming elections in Turkey. This is a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights,” the Party of European Socialists wrote on Twitter on Monday.

The European Greens, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats and the Greens–European Free Alliance have also expressed opposition to the closure of the HDP.

In 2021, Turkey’s Constitutional Court agreed to hear an indictment submitted by the chief prosecutor seeking to close down the HDP, alleging that it had “committed crimes against the state and the unity of the country and its people”.

The Constitutional Court in January blocked the HDP’s bank accounts from receiving state financial support pending a final court decision on the party’s closure but then reversed this decision on March 9.

However, the HDP’s request for the postponement of its closing statement in the case for three months due to the recent earthquake disaster and the upcoming elections was rejected and the HDP will deliver its closing argument on April 11.

This means that the party could be shut down just before the elections on May 14.

Fifty left-wing politicians and public figures from 23 countries urged President Erdogan in an open letter on Monday to end “legal attacks” on the HDP.

“If the Erdogan government dissolves the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), it will likewise dissolve the foundations of democracy in Turkey,” said the letter published by the Progressive International, an alliance of left-wing organisations and activists.

The letter was signed by well-known leftist politicians and activists including Jeremy Corbyn, former leader of the British Labour Party, Yanis Varoufakis, a former Greek finance minister, and Noam Chomsky, an American political activist and philosopher.

Pressure on the HDP and other Kurdish groups has intensified in recent years. Dozens of HDP MPs, including its former leader, Selahattin Demirtas, have been imprisoned on imprecise terrorism charges.

President Erdogan’s government continues to brand them as “terrorists” and has taken no steps to free them despite a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights calling for the immediate release of Demirtas.