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Tuesday, 25 January, 2000, 20:26 GMT
Turkish opposition fights disbandment moves

Hezbollah victims Virtue denies involvement with the Hezbollah murders


By Chris Morris in Ankara

Representatives of Turkey's biggest opposition party, the pro-Islamist Virtue Party, have asked a court in Ankara to dismiss a judicial attempt to shut the party down.

The prosecution has alleged that the party poses a clear and present danger to the state and is the centre of fundamentalist activity.

The Virtue Party had denied the charges, arguing in court that there was insufficient evidence to back them up.

A spokesman said Virtue was a legitimate organisation which believed in the law and the democratic system.

Witch-hunt

It fears a witch-hunt by its opponents, especially after the evidence which has emerged in the past week about what has been done in the name of radical Islam.

More than 30 bodies have been discovered around the country, victims of the group known as Hezbollah which wants to overthrow Turkey's secular system.

Officials warn that many more bodies have yet to be found.

No one has established any link between the Virtue Party and underground militants like Hezbollah, and politicians from all parties have been quick to emphasise that the brutality of Hezbollah has nothing to do with religion.

But some defenders of Turkey's secular political system argue that Virtue and Hezbollah are two sides of the same coin, campaigning for the same objective in different ways.

Secret history

The Virtue Party should know within a few weeks whether it has been successful in avoiding a ban on its activities.

But the fall-out from the Hezbollah affair may well last much longer.

The group's history is secretive and complex - many people want to know how it was able to grow so powerful and to commit so many murders.

Now the leader of one of the parties in the governing coalition has said he believes Hezbollah may have been given assistance by traitors within the state and by foreign intelligence sources.

Demands for a full inquiry are growing louder all the time.

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See also:
23 Jan 00 |  Europe
Turkish Hezbollah: 'No state links'
20 Jan 00 |  Europe
Bodies found in Hezbollah probe
17 Jan 00 |  Europe
Istanbul police in Islamist shoot-out
01 Apr 99 |  Middle East
Turkish police seize 400 Islamists

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