Turkey’s top court has rejected a request by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to delay a final ruling until after May elections in a case that could shut it down over alleged ties to armed groups.
The case against the HDP, Turkey’s third-largest party, is pending ahead of elections that pose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s biggest test in his 20 years in power. Polls show he and his ruling AK Party could lose, especially if the HDP cooperates with an opposition alliance.
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The Constitutional Court also on Thursday unanimously rejected the HDP’s request to be granted an additional two months to prepare its defence.
Early this month, the court froze funding the HDP was to receive from the Turkish treasury during the course of the trial.
The court will hear the HDP’s arguments against the suspension of its funding on March 14, exactly two months before elections will be held, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. It remains unclear when the court will deliver its final ruling on the party closure case.
A prosecutor filed the case against the HDP in March 2021, accusing it of having ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated a “terrorist” group by Turkey, the United States and European Union.
The HDP denies ties to the PKK, which for decades has battled the Turkish state. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
The case follows a years-long government crackdown on the HDP in which several mayors were ousted and members put on trial or jailed. The court case also seeks to ban several HDP members from politics.
The HDP, which won 12 percent of the vote in the 2018 parliamentary elections, is not part of Turkey’s six-party opposition alliance. However, its mainly Kurdish supporters helped the opposition alliance to defeat AK Party mayoral candidates in Istanbul, Ankara and other Turkish cities in 2019.
Speaking from Edirne jail in northwest Turkey this month, Selahattin Demirtas, the former leader of the HDP, urged the six-party opposition bloc to cooperate with his party to win presidential and parliamentary elections.