Turkish Prosecutor Opens Case to Ban pro-Kurdish Party, State Media Reports

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Supporters of Selahattin Demirtas, a jailed former co-leader of the pro-Kurdish HDP, wave party flags outside the Istanbul Justice Palace, last month.
Supporters of Selahattin Demirtas, a jailed former co-leader of the pro-Kurdish HDP, wave party flags outside the Istanbul Justice Palace, last month.Credit: Murad Sezer/Reuters

Turkey's state prosecutor filed a case with the constitutional court demanding the closure of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) party, state-owned Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday.

The move came after a years-long crackdown on the HDP, the third largest party in parliament. The crackdown recently intensified with nationalist allies of President Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party (AKP) calling for it to be banned over what they say are links to Kurdish militants.

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

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, last week.Credit: ADEM ALTAN - AFP

The indictment said HDP members, through their statements and actions, aimed to break the unity of the state with the Turkish people, Anadolu said.

The government accuses the HDP of links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union. The HDP denies such ties.

The HDP said prosecutors acted on political orders and accused the ruling AK Party of "shaping politics through the courts."

"The closure case launched against our party is a heavy blow to democracy and law," the HDP said in a statement, adding that its "determined struggle for democratic politics" would continue.

The PKK has fought an insurgency against the state in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey since 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

Earlier on Wednesday Turkey's parliament stripped a prominent HDP deputy of his seat over a criminal conviction for spreading "terrorist propaganda" in a social media post.

Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, a human rights advocate, was the latest among many HDP lawmakers, mayors and officials jailed or forced out in recent years, and is one of many government critics to have expressed concern about an erosion of human rights in Turkey.

Turkisk member of Parliament for the left wing political party Peoples' Democratic Party Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu.Credit: ADEM ALTAN - AFP

He said he would resist the decision and HDP deputies held up placards in parliament supporting him. They chanted “rights, law, justice” and “putchist AKP”.

“Enough of so many anti-democratic practices. We will not bow down,” Gergerlioglu shouted, adding that the will of the people had been “trampled under foot”.

The HDP now has 55 seats in the 600-member assembly. Two HDP lawmakers also lost the right to sit in parliament last year because of convictions against them.

The HDP says Gergerlioglu, who received a 2-1/2 year jail sentence, was punished for sharing on Twitter the link to a news story that included comments from PKK.

The HDP denies any links to the PKK, and said Gergerlioglu should have been protected by parliamentary immunity.

Erdogan has announced a plan to strengthen rights to a fair trial and freedom of expression in Turkey, but has failed to appease his critics.

Pressure on the HDP has grown since Turkey said 13 captives, including Turkish military and police personnel, were executed by PKK militants in Iraq during a failed Turkish military operation to rescue them last month.

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