Sunday, December 13, 2009

Violence follows DTP ban in Turkey

Kurdish demonstrators have clashed with Turkish police a day after Turkey's pro-Kurdish political party was banned by the constitutional court.

A crowd threw firebombs and rocks at police vehicles including an armoured bus in the town of Yuksekova close the border with Iraq on Saturday.

Police detained about a dozen protesters in the neighboring city of Hakkari, officials said.

The move came after after a mob attempted to lynch two police officers but were prevented by local Kurdish politicians, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

Protests took place elsewhere in the region and the western cities of Ankara and Izmir, Anatolia said.

Anita McNaught, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Turkey, said: "We've seen an escalation of street protests, we're now seeing fatalities."

The violence followed the banning of the pro-Kurdish DTP party, which Turkey's constitutional court had found guilty of co-operating with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been fighting for autonomy in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast in a conflict that has lasted 25 years and claimed 40,000 lives.

Ahmet Turk, the chairman of the Democratic Society Party (DTP) and one of two pro-Kurdish legislators who were expelled from parliament, said on Saturday the entire group had withdrawn from the assembly and would boycott parliamentary sessions.

"Our group has withdrawn from the parliament effective today," Turk said.

The Kurdish party had a total of 21 seats in the 550-seat assembly before the court shut it down.

The court also barred Turk and Aysel Tugluk, another legislator, from joining any political party for five years along with 35 other party members - including Leyla Zana, a prominent Kurd who served a decade in prison on charges of separatism.

Abdullah Gul, Turkey's president, defended the court decision during a visit to Montenegro on Saturday.

"What else can the court do when there are party administrators who declare the terrorist organisation to be their reason of existence," the Anatolia news agency quoted Gul as saying.

The ruling is likely to hamper Turkey's efforts to join the European Union, which had warned Ankara that banning the party would violate Kurdish rights.

Turkey's Kurdish population, whose language was outlawed for years, has long complained of discrimination.

But Hasim Kilic, the constitutional court chairman, said the party's closure "was decided due to its connections with the terror organisation and because it became a focal point of the activities against the country's integrity".

The ruling comes after weeks of clashes between police and protesters angry at the the prison treatment of Abdullah Ocalan, the founder of the PKK.

Earlier this week a protester was shot dead as 15,000 pro-Kurdish protesters marched in the city of Diyarbakir.

The DTP was founded in 2005 as a successor to several Kurdish parties that were forced to wind up for collaborating with the PKK.

The PKK is listed as a "terrorist" group by Turkey and much of the international community.

The party says it has "no organic links" with the separatists, but insists the group should be considered an interlocutor in efforts to resolve the Kurdish conflict.

Cengiz Aktar, a columnist with the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News, said there are "some links" between the DTP and the PKK but criticised Turkey for making party closures "a habit".

"The links apparently are there, according to the constitutional court. But in modern democracy, party closures are very seldom," he told Al Jazeera.

"This one really comes at a very unfortunate moment when the country was making a very important opening towards its Kurdish minority.

"It's a totally new era and suddenly comes this unacceptable decision that may overturn the whole democratisation process and bring the country to the verge of chaos."

Al Jazeera

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