Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan telephoned some members of Turkey’s Constitutional Court earlier this month to account for their decision to remove a freeze on state funds allocated to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the Halk TV news website reported on Thursday, citing a top court member.
In a controversial decision in January, the top court had deprived the HDP — parliament’s second-largest opposition group — of a key source of revenue heading into elections, on the grounds that it has links to terrorism.
The court reversed its decision by a majority of votes on March 9, allowing the party to receive 539 million lira ($29 million) in treasury funding this year.
One of the top court members who voted to remove the freeze on HDP’s funds on Thursday told the Halk TV news website anonymously that he and some other members had received a phone call from Erdoğan following the decision earlier in March.
“I trusted you. How could you vote to remove the freeze on the [HDP’s] funds?” the top court member quoted the president as saying over the phone.
He said he told Erdoğan that he assessed the issue from a legal perspective and found that there were no regulations in the constitution or the law that justified the measure imposed on the HDP.
“The president said the decision wasn’t in line with the law. … [When the issue first came before the court] … I couldn’t find any way other [than to freeze the funds] in the face of an allegation that treasury funds were directly transferred to a terrorist organization. However, we then saw in the documents we received that there was no actual transfer [of funds] to a terrorist organization in 2017-2018 and in the years that followed,” the member said.
Claims of government control of the judiciary reached new heights following a failed coup on July 15, 2016, after which the government launched a massive crackdown on non-loyalist citizens under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.
The HDP holds 56 of parliament’s 579 seats and usually votes together with other opposition parties.
Erdoğan’s government has been trying to close down the HDP since March 2021 over its alleged ties to outlawed Kurdish militants.
The party says it is being singled out for standing up for Kurdish rights and resisting the government’s expanding crackdown on political freedoms and dissent.
Turkey’s top prosecutor filed a closure case against the HDP in March 2021, accusing it of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a bloody war in Turkey’s southeast since 1984 and is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
The HDP’s future could play a major role in deciding Erdoğan’s success in parliamentary and presidential elections now posing one of the stiffest challenges of his two-decade rule. The party has said it may support an opposition bloc’s joint candidate, main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
Thousands of supporters and dozens of the HDP’s current and former officials are currently in jail on controversial charges that have strained Turkey’s relations with its allies in the West.
Many pro-Kurdish parties in Turkey were closed in the past due to alleged terrorist links.