Turkey on Thursday (18 March) told foreign countries to keep out of its domestic affairs after Western powers uniformly condemned its bid to shut down the main pro-Kurdish party.
The top public prosecutor in Ankara on Wednesday demanded that the leftist opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) be dissolved over its alleged links to outlawed Kurdish militants.
The 609-page indictment put before the Constitutional Court accuses the HDP of being a threat to the “indivisible integrity of the state” and seeks to ban more than 600 party members from engaging in politics for five years.
The US State Department said the ban would “further undermine” democracy in Turkey and the European Union said it was “deeply concerned” since the party’s closure “would violate the rights of millions of voters in Turkey”.
“Closing the second largest opposition party would violate the rights of millions of voters in Turkey. It adds to the EU’s concerns regarding the backsliding in fundamental rights in Turkey and undermines the credibility of the Turkish authorities’ stated commitment to reforms”, foreign affairs Josep Borrell and Neighbourhood and Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi stated.
Turkey is still officially a candidate country to join the EU, although the accession talks are on hold for several years now.
“Criminal proceedings against numerous MPs and members of the HDP are all part of a development that calls into question the rule of law in Turkey,” a German foreign ministry spokesman added in Berlin.
Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric told German newspaper Die Welt that banning a political party “is an extreme measure that may only be justified as an instrument of last resort in very exceptional circumstances in a democratic society.”
EU chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel are to hold video talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday.
The Turkish foreign ministry responded by saying that comments from “some countries” it did not name “were incompatible with the principle of the rule of law”.
“We invite those… who dare to meddle in our domestic affairs to respect the judicial process led by independent courts,” it said.
Turkey is under fire from Western governments over the independence of its judiciary.
Critics accuse Erdoğan of stacking the courts with supporters and using them to muzzle opponents since surviving a failed coup attempt in 2016.
The HDP in particular has been on the radar of Turkish officials over its alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The PKK has been waging an insurgency since 1984 that has killed tens of thousands and is listed as a terrorist organisation by Ankara and its Western allies.
The HDP has seen dozens of its mayors dismissed over alleged terror links.
The party’s former co-chair Selahattin Demirtas — a two-time rival to Erdoğan in presidential elections — has been kept in detention since 2016 despite calls from European Court of Human Rights demanding his release.
Around 100 protesters gathered in Istanbul on Thursday against the HDP’s closure threat.
“We must show our opposition in a massive way,” said Baki Gokce, one of the protesters. “Because the more we stay silent the more new attacks will happen.”
The chief public prosecutor alleges in his indictment that the HDP is “organically” linked to the PKK.
Erdoğan’s press aide Fahrettin Altun tweeted on Wednesday that “it is an indisputable fact that HDP has organic ties to PKK”.
Turkey’s parliament on Wednesday also stripped HDP lawmaker and rights defender Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu of his seat over a social media post that the courts ruled had promoted terrorist propaganda.
The post featured a news article urging the government to take a step toward peace with the PKK.