The Turkish government’s chief prosecutor has taken to the constitutional court today to demand a ban on the predominantly Kurdish opposition party HDP. Turkey believes the party is “damaging the unity of the Turkish nation through actions and statements of its members” and accuses HDP of having links with the Kurdish terrorist movement PKK.
The HDP is the country’s third largest party and holds 55 of its 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 managed to attract six million voters.
The evidence against the party and the arrested members is, according to critics, paper thin. The HDP denies having any ties with the PKK. Human rights organizations call it politically motivated arrests as part of a witch hunt for the opposition.
The HDP has been under attack for some time. The party’s former leader, Selahattin Demirtas, has been in prison for over four years on suspicion of links to the PKK, something he firmly denies. The European Court of Human Rights ruled late last year that there is no evidence to hold the opposition leader any longer, but Turkey does not recognize that ruling.
In the past year, 50 HDP mayors were removed from their posts, also due to allegations of links with the Kurdish terror group. They were replaced by President Erdogan’s confidants.
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 soldiers 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 ultra-nationalist coalition partner, has long been calling for the HDP to be banned.
The immunity of prominent HDP parliamentarian Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu has also been revoked today. This happened under loud protest in a session in the parliament in Ankara. Gergerlioglu is a member of the human rights committee in parliament and is known as one of the few politicians who speak out against human rights violations in, among other things, overcrowded Turkish prisons.
He has been sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for posting a tweet in 2016. In that tweet, he referred to a news article about a call by the PKK to the Turkish government to take steps towards peace. On appeal, Gergelioglu was convicted last month for “spreading terrorist propaganda”. Now that his immunity as a parliamentarian has been removed, he can be arrested.
Together with other HDP parliamentarians, Gergelioglu held a sit-in in parliament this afternoon in protest. “We will not be silent, we are not afraid, we will not submit,” they cried.