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Turkey’s top court accepts indictment seeking to close down pro-Kurdish party

Women's rights activists and a Kudish woman holding up a pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) flag, take part in a Peace Day rally in Istanbul on September 1, 2019. (Photo by Yasin AKGUL / AFP)

Turkey’s Constitutional Court on Monday accepted an indictment seeking the closure of the country’s second largest opposition party, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), shortly after an attack on one of the party’s office left an employee dead.

Earlier this month a prosecutor refiled an indictment that seeks to close down the HDP after the first attempt failed.

The Constitutional Court in March returned the first version of the indictment to the chief public prosecutor’s office at the top appeals court for review on the grounds that there were deficiencies in the indictment.

The court’s rapporteur completed their examination of the indictment and said the deficiencies in the previous indictment were fixed. On Friday the rapporteur asked the court to accept the indictment.

The court’s move comes three days after the party’s İzmir office was attacked by an armed assailant, killing an employee. The HDP blames the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its partner the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) for the attack, saying their hateful rhetoric targeting the HDP foments hatred of the party.

HDP Co-chairperson Mithat Sancar said in a statement following the top court’s decision that if the Constitutional Court had rejected the indictment against the HDP, it would have sent an important message in the name of democracy but that the court chose to miss the historic opportunity to do so.

According to the party’s statement, the indictment against the HDP was not drafted by the chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals but by MHP headquarters as MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli is a strong supporter of the party’s closure and once described the party as “poisonous vermin.”

“We will not let the HDP be closed down. We have the power to make it live by getting bigger. The ruling to come out of this trial concerns not only the HDP. If the top court rules for the HDP’s closure, it will have made a decision to shut itself down, too,” said the party.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) Turkey director Emma Sinclair-Webb termed the top court’s move in a tweet on Monday as a full assault on the HDP and the right of millions who voted for the party.

The HDP is accused in the indictment of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU, and of posing a threat to the “indivisible integrity of the state.”

The new indictment, comprising 850 pages, was submitted by Bekir Şahin, chief public prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals, to the Constitutional Court. The indictment calls for the imposition of a political ban on 451 party members as well as a freeze on the party’s bank accounts.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling AKP have long portrayed the HDP as the political front of the 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.

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