People’s Democratic Party to give oral defence in closure case on 11 April

Summary by HDP Europe, 10.03.2023

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is at the culmination of a years-long, politically-motivated trial aimed at closing down the party. This will be the final stage of a legal process that began on 17 March 2021 targeting Turkey’s third-largest party, which will play a king-maker role in the upcoming elections if it is not banned. 

HDP’s defence in the closure case is now scheduled for April 11

In the latest phase, the HDP had requested at least three months’ postponement in its application but, the court only postponed it until 11 April. On that date the party’s co-chairs will give an oral defence before the Turkish Constitutional Court. After that, the rapporteur of the Constitutional Court will prepare his report on the party’s legal status, and the procedure initiated by the Constitutional Court to close down the HDP will continue. 

Banning the HDP as groundwork for the Turkish elections

HDP co-chair Mithat Sancar made a statement on Halk TV on 20 March 2021 in which he pointed out the cooperation between Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) and their coalition partners, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), saying they were laying plans for the election. 

Sancar stated: “This government cannot win elections through promises to the people. It has begun creating construction plans, the most important part of which is to eliminate the HDP. I had hoped that the Prosecutor General would not initiate this procedure despite everything. It is no coincidence that on 17 March, one day before the MHP’s congress, a request was made to stop the proceedings. There were talks between the MHP leader Bahçeli and the AKP leader Erdoğan on this issue.” 

This long-term calculation is achieving its results immediately prior to the official announcement of the Turkish election. If the HDP were to be banned, the king-maker would be eliminated from the democratic process. 

What happens next?

After the oral defence, a rapporteur will collect the information and documents on the proceedings for a special report. After the report is distributed to the members of the Supreme Court, the President of the Court, Zühtü Arslan, sets a date for the hearing. The members of the Constitutional Court will convene on the appointed day and begin discussing the application to ban HDP. The 15-member panel is expected to continue its deliberations without interruption until the decision is made.

The closure of the HDP can be decided by a majority of 10 out of the 15 members present. In addition to banning the HDP, a 5-year ban from politics is being sought for 451 HDP members including the co-chairs, elected members of parliament, and party council members.

This politically-motivated procedure must not lead to a ban of the HDP shortly before the elections. This is because a ban on the HDP would mean a renewed violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). No less than seven parties from the political tradition on which the HDP is based have already been closed in the past, with the Turkish authorities violating the ECHR in all cases. Banning the HDP would mean that a party that was democratically elected by millions of people in the previous election would no longer be able to participate in the political process.

The HDP also faces other systematic legal repression and criminalizationsuch as the trial seeking over 10,000 years’ jail time against HDP members who protested against ISIS’ deadly attacks on the Kurds, and the removal from power of 59 out of 65 democratically-elected HDP mayors. Moreover, the HDP filed a request earlier this year to postpone the final court date for a decision on the closure case until after the elections expected for May or June 2023. This was rejected by the court. As a consequence, on 5 January 2022 – around six months before the expected election date – the Constitutional Court froze the HDP’s bank accounts and blocked its share of public funds for the electoral campaign. on March 9, he Constitutional Court overturned the block of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) accounts where the treasury aid is transferred.

European Representative of the HDP, Devriş Çimen, said: “The judicial release of the accounts to which the state funds are transferred is positive, but it is not a sufficient step. This is the right of the HDP, as well as the right of all other parties. The same applies to the HDP’s participation in politics and thus in the elections. Political machinations, repression, the gutting of our communities, the imprisonment of thousands of our members, blocking of our accounts, etc. are only some elements of the systematic policy  of an authoritarian regime that wants to deprive the HDP, as an important opponent, of the possibility of political participation. The HDP will resist this. For this resistance, it needs solidarity and support. Therefore, all those who stand in defence of democracy, human rights and freedom are called upon to show solidarity with HDP.”

Call for solidarity with the HDP on 13 March

To counter Erdoğan’s political calculations and efforts to disrupt the fundamental role HDP should play in the Turkish elections, the HDP should be supported internationally. Therefore, the European representation of the HDP is calling for an international campaign led by political parties and politicians on 13 March, to oppose Erdoğan’s anti-democratic course and to show solidarity with the HDP. This date was symbolically chosen, as an opportunity to show solidarity with the HDP one day before the announced date for the co-presidents’ defence. Despite the fact that the court’s recent decision moved the date forward from 14 March to 11 April, 13 March remains a day of international solidarity with HDP.

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