Turkish court sends indictment seeking ban of pro-Kurdish party back to prosecutor

·2-min read

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's top court sent an indictment calling for the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) to be banned back to the prosecutor on procedural grounds, state-owned Anadolu Agency said on Wednesday.

The Constitutional Court ruled that the indictment had procedural omissions and returned it to the Court of Cassation, it said. The Court of Cassation can re-submit the indictment after completing the necessary details.

A top prosecutor filed the lawsuit earlier this month demanding a ban on the HDP for alleged ties to Kurdish militants, as well as a five-year political ban on more than 600 party members.

The prosecutor's move was the culmination of a years-long crackdown on the HDP under which thousands of its members were tried on mainly terrorism charges.

The HDP, parliament's third-largest party, denies links to terrorism and called the move a "political coup". Party officials said they would re-group under a different name if banned, as previous Kurdish parties have done after being closed down as part of Turkey's long history of party bans.

Anadolu said on Wednesday that the court had sent back the indictment because it "did not sufficiently cover the actions of party members regarding claims that they became the focal point of acts against the indivisible unity of the state with its nation and people", as argued by the prosecutor in the file.

HDP co-leader Mithat Sancar said earlier on Wednesday the indictment was "an embarrassment in the name of the law and democracy".

"This attack does not just target the HDP and us, it targets the destruction of the will of the Kurdish people through the HDP. At the same time, it aims to destroy what is left of democracy and the state of law in Turkey," he said.

Turkey's Western allies condemned the action to shut down the HDP. Erdogan's ruling AK Party and its nationalist MHP allies, which have repeatedly called for the party to be closed down, defended the move.

Devlet Bahceli, leader of the MHP, said the Constitutional Court's decision was null and void according to "the people's conscience," broadcaster Haberturk reported.

"It is understood that the Constitutional Court is insensitive and far distanced from Turkey's fight against terrorism and separatism," he said, adding that the top court should also be shut down.

"The prosecutor must re-structure (the indictment) and file a case again. The process should absolutely not be prolonged," Bahceli said.

The AKP and the MHP accuse the HDP of ties to the militant Kurdistan Workers Party, which is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union. It has fought an insurgency in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey since 1984 in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.

(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Daren Butler and Alistair Bell)