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TURKEY’S opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has called for international solidarity before a trial which has been described as the most important in modern Turkish history opens on Monday.
The HDP, whose 55 MPs make it the third-largest force in the Turkish parliament, is under serious pressure, with 108 leading figures, including former co-chairs Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas, facing life imprisonment on a number of charges.
They have been indicted on 37 counts of murder in the so-called Kobani case, being blamed for calling street protests over government inaction when Isis were holding the largely Kurdish city in northern Syria under siege in 2014.
Government forces and paramilitaries led a brutal crackdown on the demonstrations, killing at least 54 people and injuring and arresting many more.
According to the Mesopotamia news agency, “HDP politicians are accused of the deaths of their party members … [while] investigations to reveal the perpetrators of these deaths are avoided.”
HDP MP Meral Danis Bestas said the main prosecutor in the case was known to be close to the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the junior partner in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s coalition government.
Ms Bestas accused him of preparing “a freakshow of an indictment” full of lies and with no criminal element. She said that it was a combined effort by the ruling parties to push the HDP out of democratic politics.
MHP leader Devlet Bahceli led calls for the HDP to be shut down earlier this year, with a closure file lodged in March. Turkey’s Constitutional Court sent the papers back, citing irregularities.
The foundation of HDP in 2012 represented a major step forward for democracy in Turkey, bringing together trade unionists, environmentalists, communists and supporters of the Kurdish freedom movement.
But it has faced intense pressure ever since, with some 20,000 members and supporters detained since 2016, 10,000 of whom have received jail sentences, as have 200 elected officials and at least seven MPs.
More than 50 of the municipalities won by the HDP in the largely Kurdish south-east in the 2019 local elections have since been taken over by government-appointed trustees.
It issued an appeal to progressives and sister parties across the world to observe the opening of Monday’s “show trial.” The 3,500-page indictment is likely to be read out in full and the proceedings are expected to last for months.
“The international community must do more to stop the mass internment of Turkey’s [HDP] and help resist Erdogan’s brutal repression of Kurds, women, LGBT, trade unionists and socialists #SolidarityWithHDP,” Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazard tweeted today.
In Britain, the Peace in Kurdistan group wrote a letter to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab calling on him to intervene urgently by raising the issue with his Turkish counterparts and acting to “uphold the right of the HDP to exist as a legal political party.”
The Labour Party was contacted for comment.
Supporters have been asked to use the hashstags #SolidarityWith HDP and #DefendKobani on social media and tag @hdp_europe.
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