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Turkey’s far-right party leader calls for closure of pro-Kurdish opposition party

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Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and election ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has called on the Turkish judiciary to shut down the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the third largest party in parliament.

“Turkish politics no longer has the capacity to tolerate the HDP. This hotbed of terrorism and separatism must be shut down,” Bahçeli tweeted on Friday.

The MHP leader also targeted some 800 people, mostly academics, journalists and artists, who demanded amnesty for Turkey’s political prisoners — including jailed HDP members who face terrorism charges — in a statement they released on Thursday to mark Human Rights Day.

Calling signatories of the statement “rotten people,” Bahçeli added that they “found their place at the top of the betrayal list” by signing the document.

Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) accuses the HDP, the newest party of the Kurdish political movement since its predecessors were shut down due to alleged terror links, of having ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group.

Although the HDP denies such a connection, the accusations have led to the prosecution of thousands of its members and some of its leaders, with the pro-Kurdish party currently holding only six of the 65 municipalities it won in last year’s elections due to the government replacement of HDP mayors who face terror charges with trustees.

Thursday’s statement also called for an end to the appointment of trustees to municipalities and the reinstatement of mayors who were removed from office and replaced by trustees.

Bahçeli further said the trials of Osman Kavala, a prominent human rights activist and businessman, and Selahattin Demirtaş, a former leader of the HDP, should be concluded.

“Is there any plausible reason for the case of terrorist Demirtaş to go on for this long? All terrorism-related cases should be concluded in 2021. This should be the priority of judicial reform,” Bahçeli said.

Demirtaş has been jailed since November 2016, while Kavala has been behind bars since November 2017 on what many say are politically motivated charges. Both Demirtaş and Kavala are still in prison despite rulings from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which found their arrests unlawful and called for their immediate release.

The pro-Kurdish HDP on Friday responded to Bahçeli’s remarks on Twitter, saying that it would be “a big favor for Turkey’s future if the MHP leader shut his mouth instead of shutting the HDP,” adding that they would bring democracy to the country in spite of the far-right party.

MHP Deputy Chairman and İstanbul MP Semih Yalçın also targeted the HDP on social media over their response to Bahçeli, describing the pro-Kurdish party as the “biggest obstacle” to the Turkish people’s peace and prosperity.

“Those extensions of terrorists crossed the line once again. The HDP that tells us to shut our mouths is the political extension of a bloody terrorist organization. HDP/PKK terrorists are a swarm of political insects that must be completely destroyed,” Yalçın tweeted.

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