Turkey’s top court on Monday put the main pro-Kurdish party on trial over alleged links to outlawed militants, setting the stage for its possible closure and heightened tensions with the West. The fate of the leftist Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) — parliament’s third-largest group — could also play a role in deciding President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s success in elections scheduled for 2023. Prosecutors earlier this month filed a new indictment before the Constitutional Court in a bid to dissolve the HDP and ban hundreds of its current members from politics. The original paperwork filed in March was rejected by the top court’s judges to fix shortcomings and the indictment was reintroduced by prosecutors on June 7. The Constitutional Court accepted the refiled indictment, but rejected a request “at this stage” to block the bank account where the party receives treasury aid, the Anadolu state news agency reported. Erdogan’s government views the HDP as a political front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK has waged a deadly insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 and is listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and its Western allies. “This is a really disastrous move by the Constitutional Court,” HDP co-leader Mithat Sancar told reporters at the party’s Ankara headquarters. “If the court at the end of this case closes the HDP, it will show it gave in to blackmail, threats, and plans for chaos.” Ten of the court’s 15 judges must approve the ban for the party to be dissolved. – ‘Political operation’ – Sancar called the case against the HDP a “political operation” but said the party was “determined” to continue its work. Erdogan’s influential right-wing junior alliance partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), had repeatedly called for the HDP to be banned. “This indictment wasn’t prepared by the prosecutor but at the MHP headquarters, with final development by the palace’s legal teams,” Sancar claimed, referring to Erdogan. The HDP denies formal links to militants and says any attack by Erdogan’s ruling AKP and the MHP is retribution for its strenuous and unwithering opposition to the government. Turkey has moved in the past to dissolve pro-Kurdish parties. The Freedom and Democracy Party (OZDEP) was closed in 1993 while the People’s Democracy Party (HADEP) was shut down in 2003 over alleged links to the PKK. Since 2016, senior HDP figures and members including its former leaders have been jailed on terror charges, with dozens of trials winding their way through the courts. – Deadly shooting – Western powers also view the most recent case against the party in a political light. Opinion polls show Erdogan and the AKP steadily losing support and the HDP’s closure would remove an opposition party from the ballot. The US State Department said in March that a ban would “further undermine” democracy and the European Union said the party’s closure “would violate the rights of millions of voters in Turkey”. The HDP won nearly six million votes in the 2018 parliamentary election. The court ruling came four days after an attack on an HDP provincial office in western Turkey, which critics attributed to the increasingly tense rhetoric against the party. A gunman killed HDP member Deniz Poyraz in a shooting on Thursday in Izmir that the HDP blamed on the ruling party as an “instigator of this brutal attack”.