Turkish Prosecutor Urges Kurdish Party Ban

ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkey’s hard-line Chief Prosecutor demanded a ban on the country’s main Kurdish party on Friday in a move likely to send a tremor through the political establishment three months before polls.

Vural Savas–who pressed for a ban on Turkey’s chief Islamist party a year ago–said he had presented a 56-page indictment to the Constitutional Court proving HADEP acted as a recruitment center for Kurds in the southeast.

"There exists an organic link between HADEP (the People’s Democracy Party) and the PKK–which is the bloodiest terror organization of the 20th century," Savas said in a statement.

HADEP Istanbul representative Veli Haydar Gulec said politicians would be unwise to back Savas.

"Public opinion is on our side. Supporting this would be the biggest possible blow for democracy in Turkey," he told Reuters Television. "They can’t close us now. We are convinced of that."

Deputy chairman Osman Ozcelik said the legal proceedings to close HADEP–even if successful–would take eight months.

HADEP leader Murat Bozlak is in prison on charges of fueling separatism. Forty-seven members are currently on trial.

Savas’s dramatic move–which would certainly have the backing of the influential armed forces–runs parallel to diplomatic attempts by Turkey to capture the fugitive head of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)–Abdullah Ocalan.

Turkey drove Ocalan out of his sanctuary in Syria by a powerful diplomatic campaign backed by military threats. However–when the leader was arrested in Rome in November attempts to have him extradited to Ankara failed.

He has now left Italy and his whereabouts are unknown.

Scores of HADEP members were arrested for calling hunger strikes after Ocalan’s arrest. HADEP leaders insist they were a protest at police harassment rather than support for Ocalan.

The Constitutional Court has banned 14 parties since the present constitution was passed in 1983 following a three-year period of military rule. HADEP’s two predecessor organizations–HEP and DEP–both suffered such a fate.

The Kurdish issue is by far the most controversial in Turkey among politicians and the influential military command which conducts operations in the southeast.

But the ramifications of Savas’s move–shortly before April 18 elections–go far beyond even the Kurdish issue.

It sends a warning to the Islamist Virtue Party–the biggest in parliament–accused only two months ago of challenging Turkey’s secularist constitution – grounds enough for a ban.

Anatolian news agency quoted Virtue deputy chairman Cemil Cicek as saying: "This sort of development demonstrates the conditions under which democracy operates in Turkey."

A move against Virtue would probably put polls in question.

Analysts believe the army had pressed for elections to be delayed until 2000–fearing Virtue could improve further on their support base.

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