[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of Turkey [official website, in Turkish] voted Friday to ban the Democratic Society Party (DTP) after finding the party to have been cooperating with the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], a separatist, designated terrorist group. The vote occurred after the PKK claimed responsibility [AP report] Thursday for killing six Turkish soldiers. Constitutional Court Chairman Hasim Kilic [official profile, in Turkish] told reporters that the DTP was banned under Articles 68 and 69 of the Turkish Constitution [text, in Turkish] and the Political Parties Law. DTP leaders Ahmet Turk and Aysel Tugluk [JURIST news archives] were expelled from the Turkey Grand National Assembly [official website, in Turkish], in which the DTP, the largest pro-Kurdish party, holds 21 seats. According to statements by Turk, the remaining 19 seated members, while having the option to remain in parliament as independents, will boycott the session. In addition, 35 other members of DTP, including Leyla Zana [NNDB profile], who was sentenced to 10 years [JURIST report] for supporting the PKK, have been barred from joining any political party for five years. Violent protests and riots have ensued in the Kurdish populated southeast. The European Union (EU) [official website], having previously warned that banning the DTP would violate Kurdish rights, issued a statement of concern saying the ban was an "obstacle to democratization."
The EU reported in October that Turkey’s human rights record has compromised its accession bid [JURIST report]. Turkey has faced several obstacles as it works toward accession to the EU [criteria materials], including constitutional reforms. The EU has told Turkey to amend its constitution that was written under military rule and limits freedom of expression and freedom of religion. Since August, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [BBC profile] has sought to end Turkey’s 25-year conflict [BBC report] with the PKK, which has been a major impediment to Turkey's bid to join the EU. In July, the Constitutional Court narrowly rejected a proposal to ban [JURIST reports] the Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish], which was accused of ignoring the secular principles of the country's constitution, with only six of the 11 judges favoring to dissolve the party. In May, the EC-Turkey Association Council urged [JURIST report] Turkey to improve its human rights record. Last year, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso [official profile] addressed the Turkish parliament to applaud the government's efforts to reform a controversial provision of the Turkish penal code [JURIST reports] but stressed that further efforts would be necessary.