Turkey’s Constitutional Court on Thursday suspended funding for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) over its alleged ties to terrorism, Agence France-Presse reported.
The decision deprives the HDP — parliament’s second-largest opposition group — of a key source of income heading into a general election due by June.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accuses the party of being the political wing of banned militants who have been waging a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.
The HDP denies formal links to the fighters and accuses the government of targeting the party because of its strong opposition to Erdoğan.
Thousands of supporters and dozens of its current and former officials are currently in jail on contentious charges that have strained Turkey’s relations with its allies in the West.
The party compared Thursday’s court ruling to an illegal seizure of assets and vowed to win in the polls.
“This decision, which aims to prevent a fair and democratic election process and to ignore the will of the voters, prevents neither our loss of power nor our greater victory,” it said in a statement.
Emma Sinclair-Webb of Human Rights Watch said the decision offered more proof “that Erdogan’s government uses courts to disadvantage, remove and punish the political opposition.”
The HDP’s future could play a major role in deciding Erdoğan’s success in parliamentary and presidential elections now posing one of the stiffest challenges of his two-decade rule.
Turkey’s Constitutional Court is hearing a prosecutor’s request to ban the party before the vote.
Chief prosecutor Bekir Şahin is due to argue his case in court on Tuesday.
The court will then have the option of either dissolving the party or banning some of its members if it rules against the HDP.
Turkish media reports say the party was due to receive 539 million lira ($29 million) in treasury funding this year.
The party holds 56 of parliament’s 579 seats and usually votes together with other opposition parties.
An HDP party spokesman told AFP that the party’s only other source of revenue is supporter donations.
The spokesman could not immediately say what percentage of the party’s funding comes from the state.
Thursday’s ruling came less than a month after another court banned İstanbul’s popular opposition mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu from politics.
İmamoğlu has emerged as one of the more likely opposition figures to beat Erdoğan in a head-to-head race.
The mayor will hold on to his job while the ruling is appealed.
But he would have to resign if he were elected and his political ban was upheld.