The Chief Prosecutor of the Turkish Government today went to the Constitutional Court to demand a ban on the mainly Kurdish opposition party HDP. Turkey considers that the party is damaging the ‘unity of the Turkish nation by actions and statements of its members’ and accusing HDP of having links with the Kurdish terrorist movement PKK.
The HDP is the third largest party in the country and has 55 out of 600 seats in parliament. The party is known as pro-Kurdish, but is also popular among left-wing Turks. In the last elections, the party was able to commit six million voters to it.
According to critics, the evidence against the party and the arrested members is wafer-thin. The HDP denies having ties to the PKK. Human rights organisations call it politically motivated arrests as part of a witch hunt for the opposition.
The HDP has been under attack for a long time. The former leader of the party, Selahattin Demirtas, has been in prison for over four years on suspicion of ties with the PKK, something he firmly denies. At the end of last year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that there is no evidence to hold the opposition leader any longer, but Turkey does not recognise that ruling.
Over the past year, 50 HDP mayors were removed from their posts, also because of allegations of ties with the Kurdish terror group. They were replaced by confidants of President Erdogan.
And earlier this year, 139 HDP members were arrested in a major police operation. This happened shortly after the discovery of 13 bodies of Turkish military and police officers in a PKK cave in northern Iraq. The men were held hostage in 2015 and 2016.
Devlet Bahceli, the leader of Erdogan‘s AKP’s ultranationalist coalition partner, has long been calling for a ban on HDP.
Today, the immunity of the prominent HDP parliamentarian Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu has also been withdrawn. This was done under loud protest in a parliament session in Ankara. Gergerlioglu is a member of the Human Rights Commission in Parliament and is known as one of the few politicians who speak out against human rights violations in overcrowded Turkish prisons, among others.
He was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for posting a tweet in 2016, referring to a news article about a call from the PKK to the Turkish government to take steps towards peace. On appeal, Gergelioglu was sentenced last month for “spreading terrorist propaganda”. Now that his immunity as a parliamentarian has been diminished, he can be arrested.
Together with other HDP parliamentarians, Gergelioglu held a sit-in in parliament this afternoon in protest. “We will not remain silent, we are not afraid, we will not subdue,” they cried.
Human Rights Watch speaks of ‘shocking attack on democratic values’:
In order to prohibit the HDP, 10 out of 15 judges must vote for it in the Constitutional Court. It is not known when the court looks over it.