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Democratic Society Party (DTP)

The case for closure of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), which was opened in November 2007 by the Chief Public Prosecutor of the Court of Cassation, was still pending before the Constitutional Court in late 2009. On December 11, 2009 the Turkish Constitutional Court ruled for the closure of the Democratic Society Party.

The party was accused of engaging in activities against the unity and integrity of the country. The DTP is represented in parliament with 20 members from the South-Eastern [ie, Kurdish] region of the country. The Nationalist Action Party has described 21 MPs from the Democratic Society Party, who have entered the parliament independently, as "separatists supporting PKK, led by Abdullah Ocalan," the jailed leader of the said organization.

On 14 March 2009 the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe published its opinion on the Turkish legislation governing the closure of political parties. It concluded that Articles 68 and 69 of the Constitution and the relevant provisions of the Law on Political Parties form a system which, as a whole, is incompatible with Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to freedom of assembly and association). The Turkish authorities had not amended the legislation accordingly.

The Venice Commission found that the situation in Turkey differs from common European practice in the following respects: (a) there is a long list of substantive criteria applicable to the constitutionality of political parties, which go beyond the criteria recognised as legitimate by the European Court of Human Rights and the Venice Commission; (b) there is a procedure for initiating decisions on prohibition or dissolution of parties which makes this more arbitrary and less subject to democratic control than in other European countries and (c) there is a tradition of applying the rules on party closure to an extent that has no parallel in any other European country and which demonstrates that this is not regarded as an extraordinary measure, but as a structural and operative part of the Constitution.

The Democratic Society Party was being torn between two trains of thought. On one hand, co-chairman Ahmet Turk and those aligned with him are attempting, at least in words, to distance themselves from the violent actions of the terrorist Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK). On the other, co-chairwoman Emine Ayna and those close to her consider the PKK the legitimate voice of the Kurdish people in Turkey, and insist that jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan be an interlocutor for the government on the Kurdish issue. While the party was holding together, moderates stressed that PKK pressure and intimidation prohibits them from even speaking out within the party, let alone in the broader public arena.

The Constitutional Court ruled on 11 December 2009 to close the Democratic Society Party (DTP) because of their organic connection with the terrorist Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK). In recent weeks, the DTP had been progressively showing their close links with the PKK. Prior to the Court's ruling, DTP officials believed closure to be imminent. Pro-PKK DTP members had been making a strong public effort to press the government to take jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan as an interlocutor for peace talks, release him from jail, or at least improve his conditions. The formal political wing of the PKK announced on December 10 that widespread violence would follow if the DTP were closed by the Court. Meanwhile, coordinated protests across Turkey by the DTP and PKK, along with protests outside Turkey, show that the PKK still controls a vast organization. The closure will complicate the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) National Unity Project.

Former Democratic Society Party (DTP) parliamentarians decided to submit their resignations en masse to the Turkish Grand National Assembly on December 15 following the Constitutional Court decision closing the party for ties to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Former members of the DTP immediately re-formed under the umbrella of the DTP's shadow party, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). Former DTP members and the PKK's political wing, the KCK, condemned the Court's decision as illegal, and vowed to continue to fight for the rights of Turkey's Kurds -- the DTP through peace and democracy and the KCK through violence.




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