Prosecutor to Shut Down Kurdish Party

ANKARA (Reuters)–A Turkish prosecutor said Monday he had asked a court to launch an investigation into the country’s main legal Kurdish party with the aim of banning it for alleged links to so-called separatist guerrillas.

"I believe the reasons which led me to open a case against the party’s leadership can also cause HADEP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) to be outlawed," Ankara state security court prosecutor Talat Salk told Reuters.

He said he had asked for the investigation last week. Salk recently demanded a minimum of 22 1/2 years in jail for seven top members of HADEP arrested last month for allegedly acting as the political wing of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The constitutional court has outlawed two Kurdish parties since the early 1990s–to the anger of Turkey’s human rights critics in the West. The court in January banned the main opposition Welfare Party–an Islamist grouping.

HADEP performed strongly in the mainly Kurdish southeast in 1995 elections but failed to reach the 10 percent national barrier required to have seats in parliament.

Turkish security and legal officials has recently stepped up pressure on the party–through legal cases and raids on its offices.

The European Union last year shelved Turkey’s long-held membership bid–citing human rights abuses among the reasons.

Police arrested five Italians at a Kurdish nationalist protest in southeast Turkey–security officials said on Monday.

They said the Italians and two local politicians were among 19 people detained at a demonstration in the city of Diyarbakir to mark Saturday’s Newroz spring holiday–a traditional time of Kurdish protest.

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