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Last Updated:  Thursday, 13 March, 2003, 11:31 GMT
Turkey bans Kurdish party
Dehap supporters
Prosecutors are calling for a ban on Dehap as well
Turkey's constitutional court has banned the country's main pro-Kurdish party for alleged links with rebel groups.

Court chief justice Mustafa Bumin said the People's Democracy Party (Hadep) had been aiding the outlawed Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK).

Hadep has denied links with the PKK, which waged a 15-year armed campaign against the government before officially ceasing activities last year.

The court also banned 46 members of the party, including former chairman Murat Bozlak, from politics for five years.

Hadep did not stand in last November's elections, but its candidates stood under the umbrella of the Democratic People's Party (Dehap).

Just after the court decision, Chief Prosecutor Sabih Kanadoglu called for a ban on Dehap as well.

The move follows Wednesday's ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that the Turkish authorities violated the human rights of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is serving a life sentence for his role in the conflict.

Restrictions eased

The court said that Mr Ocalan, who is the sole inmate on the prison island of Imrali, did not receive a fair trial.

Abdullah Ocalan, during his 1999 trial
Ocalan is serving a life sentence
Turkey is planning to appeal against the decision, but could face pressure to hold a retrial if the verdict is upheld.

The European Union has been urging Turkey to grant greater rights to the Kurds, who make up more than a fifth of the country's 67-million population.

Six months ago, Ankara introduced legislation which relaxed restrictions on Kurdish language broadcasting and education.

But critics say that while the law has been changed, the obstacles for those wishing to teach or broadcast in Kurdish remain immense.

Neither Hadep nor Dehap describe themselves as Kurdish parties, but both say they defend the rights of people living in the south-eastern, Kurdish-populated, part of the country.

The PKK said three years ago that it was abandoning its armed struggle.

Last year it renamed itself Kadek, saying it wanted to campaign peacefully for Kurdish rights.

However, some Turks believe that a hard core of armed PKK supporters continues to exist in northern Iraq.

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In pictures: Ocalan verdict
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In-depth: The trial of Ocalan
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Ocalan file: Timeline
03 Oct 02 |  Europe

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