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HDP closure fears grow after new terror charges raised against party executive

FEARS are growing that Turkey’s opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) may be shut down after new terror charges were raised against former members of its executive committee today.

Files have been lodged against party co-chair Pervin Buldan, parliamentary group deputy chairs Meral Danis Bestas and Saruhan Oluc and MPs Garo Paylan, Huda Kaya, Sezai Temelli, Pero Dundar, Fatma Kurtulan and Serpil Kemalbay at the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

They are accused of being “instigators” in the so-called Kobane case, which has seen 108 people charged with offences after the HDP supported “indefinite protests” against the government for blocking aid to the north Syrian border town as it was held under siege by Isis in 2014.

Thirty-seven people were killed as the Turkish government deployed soldiers, police and paramilitary forces to crush that October’s uprising. In a bizarre twist, those who killed the protesters are not facing prosecution: former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas has been blamed for the deaths.

He has been behind bars since November 2016, along with fellow former HDP co-chair Figen Yuksekdag. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in December that his continued detention was “politically motivated” and ruled that he should be released immediately.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan brushed off the court’s decision at the time and, emboldened by the lack of action to enforce the decision, he announced plans on Tuesday to get Turkey’s accession to the European Union back on track.

On Monday Mr Erdogan’s far-right ally Devlet Bahceli demanded the HDP be closed down, warning that, should the government fail, then his Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) would “do what is necessary.

“The HDP should pay the price of the October 6-8 incidents, the trench terrorism and being a host to separatism before the law, nation and history,” he said.

The ultranationalist party, which is linked to the fascist Grey Wolves, supports Mr Erdogan’s cabinet in a confidence-and-supply arrangement, having formed the People’s Alliance coalition with the president’s Justice & Development Party (AKP) in the 2018 general election.

Fears that the HDP could be closed down were raised when the Turkish parliament pass the Law to Prevent the Financing & Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction in December.

This legislation ostensibly stops the funding of terrorism — but in reality contains a range of articles designed to paralyse opposition.

It allows the government to take control of and even close non-governmental organisations, charities and political organisations “associated with terrorism.” The HDP, well supported in Kurdish areas, is particularly vulnerable as leading figures face charges or have been jailed on trumped-up terrorism charges.

A report on the latest charges will be prepared by the Prosecutor’s Office and sent to the Ministry of Justice. It will then be voted on in parliament where it is expected to pass.

The HDP has come under intense pressure since its foundation. An end-of-year report in December found that some 20,000 members and supporters have been detained since 2016. Of those, the HDP reported that 10,000 have been jailed, including some 200 elected officials and seven parliamentarians.

Following the 2019 local elections, the government moved against the HDP, removing its elected mayors from more than 50 municipalities, replacing them with government “trustees.”

It has been described as the biggest attack on a legal political party since WWII.

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