Court rejects Kurdish party bid to delay closure ruling till after Turkey elections
ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s top court rejected on Thursday a request by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to delay until after the country’s elections in May a final ruling on a case that could shut the party down over alleged ties to militants.
The case against the HDP, Turkey’s third-biggest party, comes ahead of elections that pose the biggest test for President Tayyip Erdogan’s 20 years in power. Polls show he and his ruling AK Party could lose, especially if the HDP cooperates with an opposition alliance.
The Constitutional Court also unanimously rejected on Thursday the HDP’s request to be granted an additional two months to prepare its defence.
Earlier this month, the court froze the HDP’s bank accounts holding Treasury aid during the course of the trial.
The court will hear the HDP’s defence on the freezing of its bank accounts on March 14, state-run Anadolu Agency reported. But 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 the United States and the European Union as well as by Turkey.
The HDP denies ties to the PKK, which has battled the Turkish state for decades in a separatist conflict that has claimed more than 40,000 lives.
The HDP, which won 11.7% of the vote in the 2018 parliamentary election, is not part of Turkey’s six-party opposition alliance. However, its mainly Kurdish supporters helped the opposition alliance to defeat AKP mayoral candidates in Istanbul, Ankara and other Turkish cities in 2019.
In comments to Reuters from Edirne jail in northwest Turkey this month, Selahattin Demirtas, former leader of the HDP, urged the six-party opposition bloc to cooperate with his party to win presidential and parliamentary elections.
(Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Ezgi Erkoyun; Writing by Huseyin Hayatsever; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Gareth Jones)