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Turkey's Constitutional Court has banned the Democratic Society Party (DTP), the country's main Kurdish group, on charges of links to the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), court president Hasim Kilic (pictured) has announced.
By News Wires (text)
AFP - Turkey's top court on Friday banned the country's main Kurdish group, on charges of links to separatist rebels.
The 11 judges of the Constitutional Court decided unanimously that the Democratic Society Party (DTP) had become a "focal point of activities against the indivisible unity of the state, the country and the nation", court president Hasim Kilic told a news conference here.
He said DTP chairman Ahmet Turk and fellow lawmaker Aysel Tugluk had been stripped of parliamentary immunity and banned from politics for five years along with 35 other party members.
All party assets would be seized by the Treasury, Kilic added.
The verdict comes amid a government drive to expand Kurdish rights in the hope of ending a 25-year bloody insurgency in the mainly Kurdish southeast.
Turkey's chief prosecutor started the case against the DTP in 2007, arguing the party had links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been waging a 25-year armed campaign for Kurdish self-rule.
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 PKK, but insists the group should be considered an interlocutor in efforts to resolve the Kurdish conflict, a suggestion Ankara categorically rejects.
Ahead of the verdict, DTP leaders had warned that dissolving the party would fuel tensions in southeastern Turkey. They had also threatened that the 21 DTP lawmakers in the 550-seat parliament would resign from their seats.
The DTP refuses to brand the PKK a terrorist group and party members often express support for the rebels and their jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan. PKK banners are a fixture at DTP rallies.
Most recently, the party angered Ankara when it organised a hero's welcome in October for eight PKK militants who left their rear bases in neighbouring Iraq in a gesture of good will to Ankara's reform pledges. They were freed after surrendering to the Turkish authorities.
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 rebels took up arms against Ankara in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed about 45,000 lives.