Turkey’s highest court freezes bank accounts of opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party

ANKARA – Turkey’s highest court has frozen the Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) bank accounts into which the government’s funds for political activity and campaigns are paid. The president of the constitutional court, Bekir Sahin, said that the public funds were used outside of the party for unlawful purposes. The court further judged that the pro-Kurdish and left-wing party has links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated a terrorist organization in Turkey. Seven judges of the court voted no, eight voted yes to the verdict.

With the ruling, the court has followed the reasoning of the ruling authoritarian AKP-MHP government which claims that the HDP is a vehicle for the PKK, something that the Turkish government has been trying to pin on the HDP for years.

The HDP is the country’s third largest party behind the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the opposition Republican People’s Party, CHP. Turkey will hold general election in June. In the last elections the HDP received almost 6 million votes. Former leader of the HDP, Selahattin Demirtas, has been in prison since November 2016. Last December, a Turkish court sentenced Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu (CHP) to 30 months in prison for calling election officials “fools”.

The HDP says the allegations are not true. In its response, the HDP said the verdict is a political decision and its rights are being violated. Free and fair elections are therefore not possible and the verdict goes against the voice of the people. But this judgment cannot counteract the impending loss in the elections of the AKP-MHP coalition parties. The HDP will prevail, it said in its statement.

The HDP has 1 month to come up with a defense.

In his response, Selahettin Demirtas said that: “The HDP is not bread that is quickly digested. If you want to swallow, it gets stuck in your throat and chokes you.”

Political parties that pass the 3% electoral threshold receive official party and campaign funds from the treasury. The HDP could miss out on 179.8 million lira this month due to the negative verdict. Or worse, it could be closed down altogether between now and June.