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Pro-Kurdish party declines to present oral defense to top court in act of protest

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Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the subject of a closure case, has decided not to present an oral defense at the Constitutional Court because the court has refused to delay the proceedings against the party until after elections in May, according to a statement from the party.

Turkey will hold parliamentary and presidential elections on May 14. The HDP faces the closure case, launched in March 2021, due to its alleged 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. The party denies any links to the terror group.

The HDP was scheduled to present an oral defense at the top court on April 11. The party announced on Thursday that it had decided not to give its defense statement at the court on this date, which the party said would be tantamount to an intervention in a free and fair election.

The party describes the closure case against it as politically motivated.

The HDP has so far asked the court twice to conclude its closure case after the elections. Both of the party’s requests have been denied by the court.

In its latest petition to the court, the party said that on April 11, when the party is expected to make its oral defense before the court, party officials will be busy campaigning for the elections. The party said diverting their attention from the elections to the drafting of the party’s oral defense would disadvantage the party in the elections.

The top court had previously set March 14 as the date for the HDP to make its oral defense but postponed it to April 11 since HDP deputies were busy with relief efforts in Turkey’s earthquake-stricken south and southeast.

In January the HDP made its first motion to the court for the conclusion of its closure case after the elections, which was rejected.

The HDP announced its decision last month to run in the elections under the banner of another party, the Green Left Party (YSP), to circumvent the risks that could emerge from its possible closure ahead of the elections.

In the past when pro-Kurdish parties faced similar threats, they either fielded independent candidates or ran under the umbrella of other parties.

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.

Turkey’s political history is filled with pro-Kurdish parties that were shut down on terrorism charges. Every time a party was closed, another one was established in short order.

The HDP is widely seen as the kingmaker in the presidential election on May 14 that could end the two-decade rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is seeking re-election.

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