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Protests flare after court bans Kurdish party

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-12-12

Turkey's main Kurdish party said Saturday its lawmakers would boycott parliament after being outlawed, as violent Kurdish protests flared in the Kurdish-majority southeast, hitting government efforts to mend fences with the restive minority.

AFP - Turkey's main Kurdish party said Saturday its lawmakers would boycott parliament after being outlawed, as violent Kurdish protests hit government efforts to mend fences with the restive minority.
"Our (parliamentary) group has effectively pulled out from parliament as of today. It will not participate in any work there," Ahmet Turk, co-chair of the Democratic Society Party (DTP), said after a party meeting.
The constitutional court outlawed the DTP Friday on grounds it was linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has led a deadly 25-year insurgency in the southeast and is listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community.
Violent protests flared in the Kurdish-majority southeast Saturday, prompting the police to use tear gas and water cannon against enraged demonstrators, who barricaded roads and set fires in the streets.
Protestors hurled stones at the security forces and attempted to "lynch" a police chief and an officer in Hakkari, Anatolia news agency reported, adding  that the pair was let go after local politicians intervened.
A little girl and a policeman were hospitalised with injuries from the unrest in Hakkari, while a police chief was slightly injured in Van, Anatolia said, adding that a total of 32 people were detained.
Turk condemned his party's closure as "a blow to our faith in peace", but voiced hope that "despite all obstacles, peace will definitely prevail in this country".
The DTP boycott move appeared to be a step back from a decision made before the court ruling, under which lawmakers would have resigned from their parliamentary seats if the party was disbanded.
The party had come under pressure to keep its members in parliament to demonstrate commitment to a political solution to the Kurdish conflict.
"Democratic politics will continue. We believe in the supremacy of politics," Turk said, in an apparent hint that lawmakers may later regroup under the banner of a new party.
The DTP was left with 19 members in the 550-seat legislature after two deputies, including Turk himself, were stripped of their seats as part of Friday's verdict.
The remainder can sit as independents or form a new party.
Turk urged an end to PKK violence and military operations against the rebels.
"Blood cannot be cleansed with blood. Weapons cannot be silenced with weapons... Let's not plunge Turkey into civil strife," he said.
DTP's closure overshadowed a government initiative announced in August to expand Kurdish freedoms and stoked fears of fresh ethnic tensions in a country where the conflict has claimed about 45,000 lives.
President Abdullah Gul defended the ban and accused the PKK of attempting to "sabotage" Ankara's reform plans for the Kurds.
"What else was the court supposed to do when party leaders declare the terrorist organisation as their raison d'etre?... (but) all problems can be overcome through democratic means," Anatolia quoted him as saying during a visit to Montenegro.
The government's reform drive already faltered last week when one person was killed in violent protests over claims that jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan's prison conditions had deteriorated. The PKK responded by killing seven soldiers in an ambush in northern Turkey on Monday.
The DTP says it has "no organic links" with the PKK, but has refused to brand it a terrorist group. Party members have often upheld the rebels and PKK banners have been a fixture at DTP rallies.
The European Union, which Turkey is seeking to join, voiced "concern" over the DTP's closure, urging reforms to align Turkish laws on political parties with EU norms.

Date created : 2009-12-12