HDP co-chairs say closure of party a ‘blow to democracy’ in Turkey

Experts said new legal hurdles for the pro-Kurdish HDP were based on false allegations
HDP co-chairs Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar during a press conference (Photo: Peoples’ Democratic Party)
HDP co-chairs Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar during a press conference (Photo: Peoples’ Democratic Party)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) condemned the court case and potential closure of the party, the third largest in the Turkish parliament. 

Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar said Turkey’s leading AK Party had “turned the judiciary into a subsidiary and partisan instrument which it is now using as a stick to design politics,” according to a party statement.

The prosecutor's indictment against the HDP “not only calls for its closure but for barring 600 plus (687) HDP officials from political life, withdrawing treasury support to the party and confiscating its immovables – in short it’s total annihilation,” prominent journalist Amberin Zaman said on Wednesday.

The ban also includes imprisoned former HDP leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag and comes as the Turkish parliament voted to revoke the seat and parliamentary privilege of HDP MP Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu.

Read More: EU officials criticize decision to strip pro-Kurdish MP’s parliamentary immunity

“The court case to close our Party is a severe blow to our country’s democracy and law. This government has inscribed its name in history as a coupist government,” the HDP co-chairs said on Thursday. “With the case to close HDP, AKP has presented a gift to MHP [the far-right Nationalist Movement Party] congress through the judiciary and prosecutors have acted upon political instructions.”

The MHP is planning to hold its 13th Ordinary Congress in Ankara on Thursday.

MHP, an ultranationalist anti-Western opposition bloc, developed a deepening partnership with the Islamist-rooted AKP in the aftermath of the 2015 collapse of peace talks with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and the following year’s failed military coup to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The MHP has been pushing its AKP partner to ban the pro-Kurdish HDP party since 2015.

“What we witness nowadays also indicates the profound helplessness the AKP-MHP bloc finds itself in. Not having been able to overpower HDP ideologically, politically or at the ballot box, they are now aiming to eliminate HDP from democratic politics by means of the judiciary. Their aggressiveness originates from their deep fear,” Buldan and Sancar said.

The former Turkey rapporteur of the European Parliament and senior socialist lawmaker Kati Piri told Kurdistan 24 on Wednesday that the “biggest authoritarian move in Turkey in years would be the closure of HDP, the party which represents 6 million voters in Turkey.”

“I hope the Constitutional Court will stand firm next to the law and not bend for political pressure,” the MEP added.

Nacho Sanchez Amor, the current European Parliament Standing Rapporteur for Turkey, said in a tweet on Wednesday said that the case against the pro-Kurdish HDP is “unapologetically towards the end of pluralism. What reaction does Turkey expect now from the European Union? A positive agenda?”

Earlier this month Erdogan announced an action plan with the stated goal of improving human rights in Turkey. The plan is also intended to improve relations with Europe.

Turkey’s Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun has attempted to justify the case against the HDP, anticipating a negative response from Europe and the US, and recently tweeted that “it is an indisputable fact that HDP has organic ties to PKK,” the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which Turkey, the United States and the European Union consider a terrorist organization.

“Whether that relationship warrants the HDP’s closure, or its subjecting to another punitive measure, is a question that the Constitutional Court alone can answer. We urge all parties to respect Turkey’s independent judiciary and count on our legal system to deliver justice,” he added.

Ayse Bingol Demir, human rights lawyer and Co-Director the Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project at Middlesex University, London, told Kurdistan 24 that Altun’s tweets interfere “in the judiciary to ensure the dissolution of pro-Kurdish HDP on the false allegation that it has 'organic ties' with PKK.”

She added that these allegations have been refuted repeatedly by the European Court of Human Rights judgments in cases on the Democratic Society Party (DTP) and People's Democracy Party (HADEP), two of the predecessors of the HDP that were banned by Turkey.

“Mr. Altun seems to be assuming an 'ad-hoc' role in the judicial process against HDP which is a sign on how the case will be concluded by the Constitutional Court,” she said.

Gonul Tol, the founding director of the Turkey program at the Washington, DC-based Middle East Institute, told Kurdistan 24 that “no matter how far Erdogan goes to create further legal hurdles for the HDP, he cannot make 6 million voters who voted for the party disappear.”

Editing by Joanne Stocker-Kelly