ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s highest court on Thursday ordered a temporary freeze on the funds of the country’s pro-Kurdish party as it mulls whether to disband it over accusations of links to Kurdish militants.
The decision comes weeks after a top prosecutor asked Turkey’s Constitutional Court to block bank accounts from which the Treasury disburses funds to the Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP – the country’s third biggest.
The prosecutor is separately seeking to shut the party down on terror-related charges in a move seen as part of a growing crackdown on the opposition in the run-up to elections likely to be held before June.
The Constitutional Court gave the HDP a month to present arguments against the prosecutor’s demand.
The Treasury provides financial assistance to political parties represented in parliament, and the HDP was set to receive 539 million Turkish lira (some $29 million) this year, according to media reports.
The prosecutor is accusing the HDP of allegedly colluding with the banned Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK. He is scheduled to plead his case to shut the party down next week.
HDP spokeswoman Ebru Gunay criticized the court’s decision, accusing it of “being a tool” of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s campaign to “seize the will of the peoples of Turkey.”
The HDP rejects accusations that it acts on behalf of the PKK, insisting that it is struggling for increased rights for Kurds and other minorities through legal means. It says it is being targeted by Erdogan’s government because of its past electoral success and growing appeal beyond Turkey’s Kurdish-majority southeast region.
Dozens of elected HDP lawmakers and mayors — including former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag — as well as thousands of party members have been arrested on terror-related accusations as part of a clampdown on the party. Meanwhile, several HDP mayors who were voted in local elections in 2019 have been replaced by state-appointed trustees.
The PKK, considered a terror group by Turkey and its Western allies, has waged an insurgency since 1984. The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives.