Politics

Turkey Investigates Kurdish Opposition Party for Links to Terrorism

One of Turkey's highest courts opened a criminal investigation against the country's opposition pro-Kurdish party, known by its Turkish acronym, HDP on Tuesday. The reason: alleged links to the outlawed PKK militant group, also known as the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks against Turkish authorities following the Suruç massacre earlier this month.

The decision by the Chief Prosecutor's Office at the country's Supreme Court of Appeals came after Turkey's ruling party, known by its Turkish acronym, AKP, submitted a criminal complaint against the pro-Kurdish party's leadership. The HDP became the first pro-Kurdish party to pass the 10 percent threshold to enter the Turkish parliament in June's general elections.

The investigation will examine whether the party had violated articles 68 and 69 of the Turkish constitution which state that political parties shall not "incite citizens to crime," following comments made by a number of HDP officials which were perceived to endorse Kurdish militancy, the pro-government Turkish daily newspaper Sabah reported.

Last week, the PKK, which is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the U.S. and the E.U., claimed responsibility for the revenge murders of two police officers in the town of Ceylanpinar and an alleged ISIS militant in the country's biggest city, Istanbul.

Abdülhamit Gül, the AKP's deputy chairman, tweeted the party's intention to issue the complaint on Monday, claiming that HDP officials were celebrating the outlawed PKK group's actions rather than condemning them.

In remarks made earlier on Tuesday, in retaliation to the HDP's perceived endorsement of Kurdish militant groups, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the HDP party of having links to "terrorist groups" and called for the lifting of its politicians' parliamentary immunity from prosecution. He said that it was "not possible to continue the peace process with those who threaten our national unity and brotherhood."

Fadi Hakura, Turkey expert and associate fellow on the Europe Programme at Chatham House, says that there is a high chance the investigation's opening was timed to coincide with Erdoğan's speech earlier on Tuesday."It's about electoral mathematics," he says. "Assuming the HDP is in parliament, the AKP needs an additional three percent of the national vote to secure a parliamentary majority. That's why Erdoğan is escalating pressure on the HDP, to win back that crucial three percent in early elections expected at the end of the year."

In response to growing insecurity on its shared border with Syria, Ankara is working with the U.S. to establish a buffer zone to prevent terrorist elements attacking the country. Meanwhile, Turkey requested a meeting of the military alliance NATO, at which all 28 members today signalled "strong solidarity" for Turkey against terrorism and "instability on Turkey's doorstep" following the Suruc attack which saw an ISIS-linked suicide bomber kill 32 people in the southeastern town.

The PKK has killed almost 40,000 people in its insurgency against Ankara since 1984. A ceasefire had been observed between the two sides since the end of October 2012 at the behest of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.