Turkey was propelled into fresh political uncertainty yesterday after the country's highest court closed the main Kurdish party over alleged terrorist links.
Disturbances broke out in the mainly Kurdish south-east, jeopardising moves by Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government to resolve the bloody 25-year conflict with the Kurds through political means.
After four days of deliberations, the constitutional court in Ankara ruled the Democratic Society party (DTP) "a focal point for terrorism against the indivisible integrity of the state". The party, which has 21 MPs in Turkey's 544-member parliament, is accused of cooperation with the Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK), which Turkey, the US and the European Union designate a terrorist organisation. The DTP chairman, Ahmet Turk, and 36 members were banned from politics for five years.
The decision deals a further blow to Turkey's hopes of joining the EU, which has condemned the closures as undemocratic and warned beforehand that shutting the DTP would violate Kurdish rights.
But the court's chairman, Hasim Kilic, said the DTP had rejected politics by "peaceful means". "The DTP'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," he said. "A political party has to make a distinction between pro-terror and peaceful messages."
Seven soldiers were shot in the central Turkish town of Tokrat on Monday in an ambush the government blamed on the PKK.
Turk condemned the verdict: "Turkey cannot solve its problems by closing down parties. As long as our goal is a solution to the Kurdish problem it doesn't matter who is banned or not from politics, because our determination to find a solution continues."
More than 40,000 people have been killed since the PKK launched a campaign to establish a Kurdish homeland in 1984.The biggest potential casualty of yesterday's ruling is Erdogan's "democratic initiative" aimed at solving the Kurdish conflict by granting long-withheld cultural and linguistic rights, including a Kurdish-language television station and allowing Kurdish prison inmates to talk to visitors in their mother tongue.
About 20 parties have been wound up under the party closure law introduced as part of the 1982 constitution established under Turkey's then military government.Others closed include Islamist parties accused of trying to replace Turkey's secular constitution with an Islamic state.
Last year, the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP), which has roots in political Islam, narrowly avoided an attempt to close it for alleged anti-secularism. Article: The Guardian.