Turkey’s top prosecutor files lawsuit for closure of pro-Kurdish opposition party

(Updates with indictment details, statement from Court of Cassation)

The Turkish Court of Cassation’s Chief Public Prosecutor on Wednesday filed a lawsuit to the Constitutional Court for the closure of the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

The indictment prepared by Bekir Şahin accuses HDP members of “aiming to disrupt and destroy the unbreakable unity of the state with its nation with their statements and actions”,  Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

On March 2, the Court of Cassation had requested copies of summaries against HDP’s lawmakers, Mezopotamya Agency reported. As of Feb. 27, there were a total of 955 summaries against HDP’s 56 current and three former members of parliament, according to state-run TRT Haber.

The Turkish government accuses the HDP of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been at war in Turkey for Kurdish self-rule almost four decades, and has intensified a crackdown on the group over the last few years.

The indictment against the HDP includes a call for a political ban on over 600 HDP members, including jailed former co-chairs Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş, Gerçek Gündem newspaper reported.

Anyone banned from politics in Turkey is effectively prohibited from forming, becoming a member or administrator of another political party for a five year period after the decision is published in the Official Gazette.

The country’s Constitutional Court may also, accordingto article 69 of the constitution, chose to leave the HDP partially or entirely deprived of any state support, depending on the severity of the acts the party is accused of, according to Gerçek Gündem.

Ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) junior coalition partner far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) has long pushed for the closure of the HDP. MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, during the weekly parliamentary meeting of his party on March 2, said he expected Şahin to launch an investigation into the party.

Şahin had the option to file the lawsuit if the high court’s inquiry into the summaries assessed that the HDP had ties to terrorism.

According to MHP leader Bahçeli, the only outcome of such inquiries could be for the court to find that HDP was the “focus of terrorist acts”, a distinct citation in Turkish law that would lead to the party being shut down.

Hours before Şahin filed the lawsuit, the Turkish parliament stripped Turkish HDP deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu of his parliamentary status over a finalised 2.5 year prison sentence for terrorist propaganda.

The party, which is the second largest opposition bloc in the country, condemned the move in parliament, with deputies streaming the protests live.

The status of two more HDP deputies, Leyla Güven and Musa Farisoğulları, was revoked in June, also over finalised sentences on terrorism charges.

The Court of Cassation later on Wednesday issued an official statement on the indictment, saying HDP leadership and members had acted in ways that were "unacceptable according to democratic and universal laws’’ and had acted with the PKK conducting activities as an extension of the outlawed organisation.

“Such activities,“the court said, “aimed to disrupt and annihilate the indivisible integrity of the state.’’

The prosecutor behind Wednesday's indictment was appointed as the Chief Public Prosecutor to the Court of Cassation in June of last year, directly by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, despite coming in fourth place in a vote among the members of the Court of Cassation, daily BirGün reported at the time.

Şahin is a graduate of an İmam Hatip high school, a vocational school that trains imams and has come to symbolise a religious upbringing favoured by Erdoğan in his bureaucrat appointments, in the central Anatolian province of Çorum, BirGün reported. He was elected to the Court of Cassation in 2013, after serving in several provinces throughout the country.