US senators urge Biden to hold Erdogan accountable for crackdown on HDP

Ten U.S. senators penned an open letter to President Joe Biden on September 30 asking him to “forcefully condemn” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over his government's crackdown on the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP).

“We urge you to forcefully condemn President Erdogan’s escalating efforts to disband the country’s largest pro-Kurdish political party and to work with our EU partners to prevent further democratic backsliding in Turkey,” said the letter.

Recalling a state prosecutor's indictment calling for the HDP's closure, the letter said: “Having failed to defeat Turkey’s largest pro-Kurdish party at the ballot box, President Erdogan is now attempting to dissolve the HDP and bar hundreds of its members from holding office through the judicial system.”

The letter asked Biden to ensure that Erdogan “understands that any attempt to disband the HDP or detain or bar from office its members will result in serious negative consequences for Turkey.”

The senators also touched upon the case of former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas, saying he remains imprisoned despite baseless charges and the orders of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

“Despite the legally-binding nature of these rulings, Demirtas remains in prison, prompting the Council of Europe on September 17, 2021 to call on Turkey to release him immediately,” the letter said.

The letter came as Erdogan last month denied the existence of the Kurdish issue in Turkey once again, claiming that his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government had “already solved this issue.”

“There is no such problem in Turkey. We have already solved this issue, overcome it and ended it. If there are those who believe in unity, solidarity, brotherhood, let them come and continue on the path all together,” Erdogan said on September 23.

Meanwhile Erdogan said on Friday, October 1, during a speech to mark the beginning of the new legislative year in Parliament that The Turkish government has resolved the Kurdish issue completely.

“We have resolved the matter called the Kurdish issue, abused by all factions including terrorist groups, in all its aspects, from rights and freedoms to development,” he said. “We will also unmask those who still want to abuse this matter.”

In the culmination of a years-long crackdown against the HDP, Court of Cassation prosecutor Bekir Sahin earlier this year filed an application with the Constitutional Court calling for the party's closure.

If two-thirds of the top court members, i.e. at least 10 of them, rule for the HDP's closure, the decision will be published in the Official Gazette. The top court might also just decide to partially or completely cut off state aid to the party.

If the top court rules that HDP officials' statements and actions were responsible for the party's closure, the relevant individuals will be banned from politics for a period of five years.

The prosecutor's move marks the revival of a long history of Turkey banning political parties, including pro-Kurdish ones.

The HDP has recently come under intensified pressure from Erdogan and his ally Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

That coincided with falling poll support for the AKP and MHP as they battle the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Elections are not scheduled until 2023.

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