Turkey decides to ban pro-Kurdish political partyGlobal Voices


Leader of the People’s Democratic Party, Selahattin Demirtas in the 2015 general elections in Turkey. Photo by Hilmi HacaloÄŸlu, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Turkish_general_election,_2015_-_Peoples%27_Democratic_Party_(Turkey)_Selahattin_Demirta%C5%9F.jpg

The Turkish Constitutional Court accepted an indictment calling for the closure of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP) on June 21. The Constitutional Court, the highest court in the country, has the power to rule on the closure of political parties in Turkey.

The 843-page indictment was first filed by the chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeal of Turkey, Bekir Åžahin, in March 2021, accusing the party of collaborating with the banned militant group of the Party. Kurdistan Workers (PKK). The PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization in Turkey and by its Western allies, including the United States and the EU. The indictment also demands that the party’s assets be frozen and that the 400-plus party members be banned from any future political activity. HDP refuses such links.

While critics say Turkey’s president and the ruling Justice and Development Party are using the country’s highest courts to quell political dissent against his government. Prosecutors and courts have become little more than an instrument of the executive, part of the power struggles within the state, ”said Emma Sinclair Webb, senior researcher on Turkey for Human Rights Watch, based in New York, in an interview with Bianet.

Following its initial submission in March, the Constitutional Court rejected the indictment, citing incomplete details. Four months later, the prosecutor closed the case on June 7.

According to Turkish news agency T24, the indictment read:

The activities of the HDP were found to be contrary to the independence of the state, to unity with its country and nation and to human rights. The defendant has, at the same time, through almost all of its organs, members and organizations, committed these major crimes, while inciting and encouraging them.

The chief prosecutor’s office indicted 108 people for launching deadly protests in 2014. According to VOA reports, these protests were sparked by Ankara’s refusal to offer support to Kurdish fighters who were besieged by the government. so-called Islamic State group, in the Syrian town of Kobane on the Turkish border. The most recent arrest took place in March when at least three high-ranking HDP members were arrested. Three days earlier, the public prosecutor had filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court to dissolve the HDP.

The HDP is determined to fight the controversial attempt to ban the party. “We will not let HDP dissolve, we will defend HDP. The HDP will not stop growing, ”said Mithat Sancar, co-chair of the party, in a statement. The party won six million votes in the 2018 parliamentary elections, becoming Turkey’s third party in parliament.

The party was under pressure in recent years. Dozens of high-ranking HDP party members, including former co-chair Selahattin DemirtaÅŸ, have been arrested on terrorism-related charges.

According to the Human Rights Watch report, the charges against DemirtaÅŸ include “membership of a terrorist organization”, “dissemination of terrorist propaganda” and many other crimes. If convicted, DemirtaÅŸ faces a life sentence. On November 20, 2018, the European Court “rendered the rare decision that there had been a violation of Article 18 of the European Convention, which means that the prolongation of DemirtaÅŸ’s detention had been continued for ulterior purposes and therefore constituted an abuse of power. . “

The court ordered DemirtaÅŸ’s immediate release. A few days after the European Court’s ruling, the Istanbul Regional Court of Appeal accelerated the review of a conviction against DemirtaÅŸ for a political speech he gave in Istanbul in 2013 and sentenced him to four years and eight months for “spreading terrorist propaganda”. Other party members lost parliamentary seats.

The June 21 decision came just days after an armed man stormed party headquarters in the Turkish city of Izmir, killing HDP member Deniz Poyraz. “I entered the building with the intention of killing anyone who might have been in the office at the time indiscriminately and shot everywhere,” gunman Onur Gencer said, according to Hurriyet Daily News.

The leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which is in coalition with the ruling AKP, was quick to label Poyraz as a terrorist. “I’ll tell you who was the person killed, Deniz Poyraz: she was in charge of the rural recruitment of the PKK, an accomplice militia in the ring that sends PKK sympathizers who want to go to the mountains,” said the group’s leader. . Devlet Bahçeli party at a party meeting on June 22.

Meanwhile, the HDP accused the AKP and MHP of the attack in a statement:

Our friend, Deniz Poyraz, was assassinated in the attack on our building in Izmir. The instigators and accomplices of this brutal attack are the AKP-MHP government and the Interior Ministry which constantly targets our party and our members.

Experts say the government is tightening restrictions on the HDP ahead of the 2023 elections. If the HDP is dissolved, then Erdogan is more likely to gain an electoral advantage in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast. traditionally divided between HDP and AKP.

The US State Department statement issued in response to attempts to shut down the HDP, noted that in doing so, “it would unduly reverse the will of Turkish voters, further undermine democracy in Turkey and deprive millions of Turkish citizens of the representation they have chosen ”.

Likewise, in an interview with FT, political scientist Sezin Ozey said, “The scapegoat produces the polarization that distracts attention from other issues during the coronavirus pandemic,” she said. “Demonizing the HDP also helps neutralize the rest of the opposition.”

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