Turkey’s chief prosecutor files lawsuit to ban pro-Kurdish HDP party

Party is accused of attempting against Turkey’s indivisibility, maintaining links with PKK

HDP flag.
HDP flag. Author: HDP @ Twittter
Chief Prosecutor of Turkey’s Court of Cassation Bekir Şahin has launched a legal proceeding that could lead to the outlawing of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). In the lawsuit submitted to the Constitutional Court, Şahin blames the HDP for undermining the indivisibility of the Turkish state and for maintaining links with the PKK, according to reports published by Anadolu Agency.

In the Turkish legal system, the chief prosecutor of the Court of Cassation is responsible for bringing charges against political parties before the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court’s decisions are final.

President of Constitutional Court Zühtü Arslan will now appoint an informer, who will prepare a report on the lawsuit. If Arslan accepts it, the actual court proceedings will begin.

The news comes on the same day that HDP MP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu has been disqualified as a member of the Turkish parliament, after a prison sentence was confirmed against the politician for “spreading terrorist propaganda.” The HDP considers this to be a politically motivated decision and a part of the Turkish government’s strategy of criminalisation of the pro-Kurdish left.

The HDP is a legal party in Turkey and consistently denies that it has any links with the PKK, which is an illegal organisation. Moreover, the HDP’s programme does not include any demand for independence for Kurdistan, but rather for decentralisation of Turkey.

Founded in 2012, the HDP sits on the left of the political spectrum. The party promotes the rights of minoritised peoples and communities: Kurds above all, but also Alevis, Armenians and others, as well as women’s and LGBT rights. It is therefore at the opposite end of the spectrum to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamoconservative party, the AKP, and its far-right partner, Turkish ultra-nationalist MHP.

In the 2018 election, the HDP was the third largest party, with 11.7 per cent of the vote and 67 MPs out of 600 in the Turkish Parliament. The party was the largest in most Kurdish provinces.

The HDP has been persecuted by the Turkish judiciary almost since its foundation. One of the most high-profile cases was the arrest in November 2016 of its two co-leaders, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yüksekdag, on terrorism-related charges.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in November 2018, and again in December 2020, that Turkey must release Demirtas immediately. The ECHR says that in the detention of Demirtas —whose trial is still pending— no evidence is found of links between his actions and the charges against him. Turkey has ignored the two European court rulings, and continues to hold the Kurdish leader in jail.

In a previous Nationalia article we explained that MHP President Devlet Bahçeli was demanding that the Turkish judiciary initiate proceedings to outlaw the HDP. Bahçeli also requested that the HDP should not be succeeded by any new party.

Ban dynamics

Pro-Kurdish left-wing parties have been banned, one after another, since their inception in the 1990s. The first one, the People’s Labour Party (HEP), was banned in 1993, three years after its foundation. Subsequently, all its successors have been outlawed: the ÖZDEP (1993), the DEP (1994), the HADEP (2003), and the DTP (2009). It could now be the HDP’s turn.

However, another legal party in Turkey having almost the same ideology as the HDP still exists. It is the Democratic Regions Party (DBP), which has an MP in the Turkish Parliament: Salihe Aydeniz, elected on the HDP’s lists.