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Turkey’s top court removes freeze on funds allocated to pro-Kurdish party

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Turkey’s Constitutional Court has removed a freeze on state funds allocated to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) as the country heads toward presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

In a controversial decision in January, the top court deprived the HDP — parliament’s second-largest opposition group — of a key source of income heading into elections, on the grounds that it has links to terrorism.

The court reversed its decision by a majority of votes on Thursday.

The party is due to receive 539 million lira ($29 million) in treasury funding this year.

The HDP holds 56 of parliament’s 579 seats and usually votes together with other opposition parties.

The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been trying to close down the HDP since March 2021 over its alleged ties to outlawed Kurdish militants.

The party says it is being singled out for standing up for Kurdish rights and resisting the government’s expanding clampdown on political freedoms and dissent.

Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court also announced the postponement of the HDP’s oral defense from March 14 to April 11 at the request of the party.

Turkey’s top prosecutor filed the closure case against the HDP in March 2021, accusing it of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a bloody war in Turkey’s southeast since 1984 and is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

After the HDP delivers its oral defense before the court, the rapporteur will draft a report that will include an opinion on the potential closure of the party.

The court’s members will begin deliberations after receipt of the report.

The Constitutional Court has the option of dissolving the party or banning some of its members from politics if it rules against the HDP.

The 15-member panel needs a two-thirds majority to approve a political ban.

Bekir Şahin, the chief public prosecutor at the Supreme Court of Appeals, in January made his final case at the Constitutional Court and demanded its closure due to its alleged ties to the PKK.

The chief prosecutor said the verdict’s timing was “at the Constitutional Court’s discretion.”

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. The party has said it may support an opposition bloc’s joint candidate, main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

Thousands of supporters and dozens of the HDP’s current and former officials are currently in jail on controversial charges that have strained Turkey’s relations with its allies in the West.

Many pro-Kurdish parties in Turkey were closed in the past due to alleged terrorist links.

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