Top Turkish court grants time to pro-Kurdish HDP to prepare defence

Turkey’s Constitutional Court (AYM) accepted the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) request for extra time to prepare a defence in the case to shut down the party, Mezopotamya Agency reported on Friday.

A total of 451 politicians, including members of parliament and chairs of party branches nationwide, will be given 30 days to submit their defence statements following the serving of the indictment.

The party itself will have 60 days to prepare a defence against the indictment, an 843-page-long document that includes investigations, information on other cases, proceedings against members of parliament, and secret witness and informant testimonies.

The indictment had not been provided for the party to analyse and prepare against. After the documents were delivered, the HDP said it was still missing statements of documents confiscated from searches conducted in party offices.

The HDP had also petitioned the AYM to request amicus curiae from the Council of Europe Commission for Democracy through Law, also known as the Venice Commission, but has not received a response from the court yet.

At the end of the time granted, HDP will submit a defence to the court and, at a later date to be set by the AYM, present an oral defence.

After HDP’s defence and the Court of Cassation’s Chief Public Prosecutor’s opinion on the case, 15 members of the AYM will issue a ruling on whether the party will be shut down in relation to Article 69 of the Constitution, or depending on the severity of the ruling, depriving the party of public funding.

If HDP is shut down, the 451 officials will be barred from founding or joining another political party, and won’t be able to take on executive or oversight positions at one for five years.

Articles 68 and 69 of the Turkish constitution say that political parties may not go against “the indivisible integrity of the state with its country and nation”, or “encourage the committing of crimes”.

Top officials of the HDP, including several former deputies, mayors and co-chairs Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş, are currently on trial for alleged crimes related to terrorism. The party stands accused of ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed organisation that has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule on Turkey’s soil for some four decades.

Starting with the banning of People’s Labour Party (HEP) in 1993, at least five pro-Kurdish parties have been banned by the courts. Most recently, the Democratic Society Party (DTP) was banned in 2009.

The HDP, founded in 2012, is a coalition of pro-Kurdish and left-wing political parties and organisations, and includes as a constituent the most recent pro-Kurdish party, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) that was founded after DTP’s closure. In its parliamentary group it has had representatives from Kurdish, Turkish, Arab, Armenian and Syriac communities as well as the minority religious groups Alevis and Yazidis.

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