Turkish high court accepts indictment against Kurdish party

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s highest court on Monday accepted an indictment by a top prosecutor seeking to disband a pro-Kurdish opposition party on terror-related charges.

The Constitutional Court ruled in favor of hearing the case against the People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, which was filed by the chief appeals court prosecutor who is accusing it of allegedly colluding with the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and of seeking to “destroy the unity of the state.”

The prosecutor is demanding that the party be dissolved, that it be deprived of treasury funding and that about 450 party members be barred from holding political office for five years.

This was chief prosecutor Bekir Sahin’s second petition seeking HDP’s closure after the Constitutional Court rejected a previous attempt in March, citing procedural deficiencies.

The HDP said the closure case was “the culmination of a months-long political campaign” against the party.

“Everyone has seen with their own eyes that this is a political operation,” said HDP chairman Mithat Sancar. “We won’t allow the struggle for (democracy) to regress. This case will further increase our determination for democratic politics and our determination to expand the struggle.”

The move against the HDP — the second-largest opposition party in Turkey’s parliament — comes amid a widespread government crackdown. Dozens of elected HDP lawmakers and mayors — including former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag — as well as thousands of party members have been arrested on terror-related accusations. Meanwhile, several HDP mayors who were elected in 2019 have been replaced by state-appointed trustees.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called HDP members terrorists, while his nationalist party allies have repeatedly called for the party to be shut down. Erdogan’s government has also been behind a general crackdown on dissent ever since a failed 2016 coup attempt.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, which has long accused Turkey’s judiciary of being under the influence of Erdogan’s government, suggested on Monday that the prosecutor had received “instructions” to open the case.

“The closure of a party through a case that was opened under instructions will hurt the people’s conscience,” said CHP spokesman Faik Oztrak.

On Thursday, a gunman attacked an HDP office in Izmir, western Turkey, killing a female employee. The assailant entered the building, fired shots and attempted to set it on fire, the party said. He was arrested.

The Kurds are scattered mainly in southeastern Turkey as well as parts of Syria, Iraq and Iran. They constitute Turkey’s largest ethnic minority group and make up an estimated 20% of the country’s population.

The PKK is considered a terror organization by Turkey, the European Union and the U.S. The group has led an armed insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 and the conflict has killed tens of thousands of people.

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