Turkish court accepts indictment seeking ban of pro-Kurdish HDP

Turkish Constitutional Court on June 21 accepted an indictment filed by a senior prosecutor seeking a ban on the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) for alleged ties to militants, state media said, opening the way for a case to close parliament’s third-largest party.

The case is the culmination of a years-long crackdown on the HDP, in which thousands of its members have been tried on mainly terrorism-related charges. The party denies links to terrorism and has said the case is a “political operation.”

The court’s judges unanimously accepted the new indictment from the Court of Cassation, Turkey’s top appeals court.

The indictment will now be sent to the HDP for its initial defense, but the judges rejected a bid to block the party’s accounts, state-owned Anadolu Agency reported.

The HDP has come under intensified pressure in recent months, with nationalist allies of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) calling for it to be banned over alleged ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

That pressure has coincided with falling poll support for the AKP and its allies as Erdoğan’s government battles the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Elections are not scheduled until 2023.

Turkey has a long history of shutting down political parties seen as a threat and has in the past banned a series of other pro-Kurdish parties. Critics say its judiciary is subject to political influence, a claim denied by the AKP and its MHP far-right allies.

The top court had sent a previous indictment back to the Court of Cassation prosecutor in March due to procedural omissions and it was refiled earlier this month. There was no immediate statement from the court itself.

The HDP said its leaders were meeting to assess the decision. In the 2018 parliamentary elections, the HDP won 11.7% of the vote, or nearly 6 million votes. It has 55 lawmakers in the 600-seat assembly.

“Full assault on HDP & the right of millions who voted for it to (be) their chosen parliamentary representatives goes on,” Human Rights Watch’s Emma Sinclair-Webb wrote on Twitter.

The PKK launched an insurgency in 1984 in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict. The European Union and the United States, like Turkey, designate the PKK as a terrorist group.

Duvar English – Reuters