Facing closure by the government, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) presented its preliminary 173-page defense to the Turkish Constitutional Court on Nov. 5. The ruling Justice and Development (AKP)-led government is trying to close the left-wing opposition party for its alleged ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Court of Cassation submitted an 843-page indictment on June 21, 2021, calling for a political ban on all 451 politicians affiliated with the party. The indictment cited words and actions of 69 members of the party as criminal and demanded the party be permanently closed. The case is widely seen as a political move to clamp down on the opposition in the lead-up to the planned 2023 elections.
The indictment was accepted by the court and officially delivered to the HDP on July 9, 2021. At that point, the 60-day defense process began. The HDP requested additional time to prepare their defense on Aug. 11, and the request was approved.
The HDP’s 173-page defense was prepared by its Legal and Human Rights Commissions. The defense stated that the closure case brought against the HDP was political - lawyers drew attention to the critical role the HDP plays in Turkey’s democracy. They indicated that the case was a move by the ruling AKP and Nationalist Movement Parrty (MHP) coalition to further their “political directives.”
After the defense was presented, lawyer Ümit Dede spoke to the press. He said that they presented the 173-page document, along with an annex, abiding by the time limit imposed by the Constitutional Court. He said that now, the Chief Public Prosecutor would give an opinion on the defense.
He also pointed to the carelessness with which the initial indictment against the HDP was prepared by pro-government lawyers. The document was so riddled with holes and errors and provided so little evidence, that the Constitutional Court rejected it. Dede said this would go down as a “black mark in Turkish judicial history.”
He said that the indictment offered little to no evidence for many of the claims it made against the HDP, and the information was jumbled and scattered in 70 folders and 8 flash drives. Due to the size of the indictment and the disorderliness of the information, the Constitutional Court granted the party more time, but Dede said they failed to address their concerns that there was insufficient evidence presented for the charges demanded.
“The Constitutional Court rejected our […] justifiable demands, our criticisms regarding the lack of basis for many of the claims, and our demands for their completion,” he said. “Regardless, in the time they gave us we prepared and presented our defense in its current file form.”
Now, the HDP waits. On Nov.6, the party will present highlights from its defense at their headquarters. In the meantime, the Chief Prosecutor of the Court of Cassation, Bekir Şahin, will present his opinion on the merits of the case to the Constitutional Court, and a report on those merits will be prepared. After the report is distributed to the court’s members, they will discuss the closure of the party. The final decision will be made by a 2/3 majority by a fifteen-member Constitutional Court committee.
The Constitutional Court may then order the party permanently dissolved or deprive wholly or partially of Treasury aid. If the court decides to permanently dissolve, the people who are ostensibly the reason for the party’s closure (the 69 people who allegedly acted criminally) will be banned from politics for five years. They will not be allowed to be founders or members of any other party.