ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – A pro-Kurdish political party said Saturday that its lawmakers would boycott parliamentary sessions after the party was banned by Turkey’s top court on charges of ties to Kurdish rebels.
The move deepened uncertainty over efforts to end conflict between the state and the ethnic minority.
Legislators of the banned Democratic Society Party could have gathered under another party name or continued their work as independents, but party chairman Ahmet Turk, one of two pro-Kurdish lawmakers who were expelled from the parliament, said the entire group had withdrawn. The Kurdish party had a total of 21 seats in the 550-seat assembly before the Constitutional Court shut it down.
“Our group has withdrawn from the parliament effective today,” Turk said.
The political turmoil has jeopardized a government project to reconcile with minority Kurds in the hopes of ending the fight with Kurdish rebels who have been labeled terrorists by the West. On Saturday, Kurdish protesters fought police in the mostly Kurdish southeast of Turkey.
Turk, who was accused by the government of promoting terrorism, said the court decision was politically motivated and diminished hopes for a solution. The court said in its ruling that the party had become “a focal point of activities against the state’s unity” with
its “actions and ties to the terrorist organization” a reference to the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has fought for autonomy from the Turkish state since 1984.
The court barred Turk and legislator Aysel Tugluk 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.
President Abdullah Gul 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 organization to be their reason of existence,” the Anatolia news agency quoted Gul as saying.
The ban on the 4-year-old party was a setback for efforts to bring pro-Kurdish leaders into the political mainstream and it led to violent street protests. Stone-throwing Kurds clashed with police in the southeastern city of Hakkari and neighboring town of Yuksekova, prompting police to disperse the crowds with water canons.
The court has shut down several Kurdish party on similar charges in the past. The predecessor of the Democratic Society Party had dissolved itself in 2005. The party is the 27th to be shut down in Turkey since 1968.