Former President Gül criticizes move to ban HDP, expulsion of MP from parliament

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Former Turkish President Abdullah Gül on Thursday criticized a recent move by a prosecutor asking the Constitutional Court to shut down the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the expulsion from parliament of Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a rights advocate HDP deputy, Turkish media reported.

“Stripping a lawmaker, a renowned rights advocate who has nothing to do with violence, of his parliamentary status and moving to close a political party will be a big burden on a government that tries to underline the need for democracy and the rule of law in Turkey by introducing reform packages,” former President Gül told Murat Sabuncu of the T24 news website.

Gül, a founding member Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, served as country’s 11th president between 2007 and 2014.

“We went through all this in the ’90s, and it paved the way for the isolation of Turkey as well as anti-Turkey sentiment. We tried hard later on to erase the memory of those days. Previous experience shows that terrorist groups benefit from party closures,” Gül was quoted as saying.

The top public prosecutor in Ankara on Wednesday demanded that the leftist opposition HDP be dissolved over its alleged links to outlawed Kurdish militants.

The 609-page indictment put before the Constitutional Court accuses the HDP of being a threat to the “indivisible integrity of the state” and seeks to ban more than 600 party members from engaging in politics for five years.

The US State Department said the ban would “further undermine” democracy in Turkey.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry responded by saying that comments from “some countries” it did not name “were incompatible with the principle of the rule of law.”

Turkey is under fire from Western governments over the lack of independence of its judiciary.

Critics accuse President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of stacking the courts with supporters and using them to muzzle opponents since surviving a failed coup attempt in 2016.

Erdoğan has long portrayed the HDP as the political front of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The party denies links to PKK and says it is working to achieve a peaceful solution to Turkey’s Kurdish problem and is only coming under attack because of its strong opposition to Erdoğan’s 18-year rule.

The political and legal assault on the HDP, which intensified after a truce between the Kurdish militants and Erdoğan’s government broke down in 2015, grew even stronger after Erdoğan survived a failed coup attempt in 2016 that was followed by a sweeping political crackdown.

Hundreds of HDP politicians, including the party’s former co-chairs, are behind bars on terrorism charges, while most of the 65 HDP mayors elected in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast in 2019 have been replaced by government-appointed trustees.

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