Monitor archives:
Copyrighted material

Turkey Bans Kurdish Political Party

by Nadire Mater

The day after landmark court victory
(IPS) ISTANBUL -- Abdullah Ocalan, the convicted Kurdish leader won a landmark ruling in his favor from the European Human Rights Court this week, but there was little reason to celebrate after a Kurdish party was banned the following day.

The ruling by the European Human Rights Court (EHRC) came Wednesday, and the Turkish government responded by banning the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HADEP) the following day. It was declared to be an "accomplice of PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party that was headed by Ocalan)."

Chief prosecutor Sabih Kanadoglu announced that DEHAP (Democratic People's Party), successor to HADEP has been indicted for "contesting the 2002 elections on falsified documents." He is asking the Constitutional Court now to ban DEHAP as well.

After gaining the majority vote in the southeast provinces in 1999, HADEP still controls 37 local councils in the region, including most cities. But with 4.7 percent of the national vote it fell short of the minimum of 10 percent needed to send representatives to Parliament.

In the elections last year DEHAP won 6.2 percent of the national vote. The future of elected representatives of both HADEP and DEHAP is now uncertain. But DEHAP may continue to hold local power in Kurdish areas until the next local elections in 2004.

The Constitutional Court pointed to links between HADEP and the PKK, but the PKK disbanded itself after Ocalan's arrest. Many of its members regrouped as KADEK (Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress) and declared unilateral truce with the Turkish government.

About 5,000 KADEK guerrillas are reported, however, to have bases in northern Iraq and in Iran. Eleven KADEK guerrillas have been reported killed in recent border clashes.

The new crackdown on Kurdish groups may surface in appeals over the EHRC ruling.

Ocalan's lawyers are planning a new defense after meeting Ocalan in his cell on Imrali island in the Marmara Sea 30 miles to the south of Istanbul. Ocalan's lawyers reached him after 14 weeks of efforts.

The EHRC declared that Ocalan had been convicted in an unfair trial because one of the judges for a part of the trial was a military man. He was removed after the first three hearings, but the EHRC said that still did not make for fair trial.

Ocalan had been sentenced to death in 1999 for "armed attempt at separating a part of Turkish territory." He was also held responsible by a Turkish court for all the deaths during a 15-year Kurdish insurgency. The guerrilla war launched by Kurds and the brutal Turkish crackdown led to more than 30,000 deaths. About two-thirds of the victims were Kurds.

The EHRC judgement does not, however, declare Ocalan innocent. Merdan Yanardag, a left-wing commentator says: "If the trial was unjust, then the court should rule that the final sentence was also unjust. But the court has dismissed those claims by Ocalan. This is a political decision. With one hand the court tried to please the Kurds, and with the other the Turkish government."

Turgut Okyay, chief judge of the Ankara State Security Court who broke his pen after signing the death sentence on Ocalan in 1999 (an old judicial custom) said: "I was sure they would show double standards, so I am least disturbed by their verdict."

The EHRC ruling has not fully satisfied anyone. Ocalan's lawyer Hasip Kaplan says he will appeal to the Grand Chamber of the Court. Five judges from the Grand Chamber will consider the appeal. The Grand Chamber decides by a majority vote and its judgements are final.

"We are still expecting that all points in our application should be decided positively," Kaplan says. "Throughout the trial we were barred from bringing our files in the court hall, we were continuously harassed and threatened, while the prosecutors were provided easy access."

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on the other hand that the European court had ignored the recent amendments to Turkish law. "The EHRC ruling is not sound," the ministry said in a statement. "Therefore we will appeal for trial in the Grand Chamber."

Comments? Send a letter to the editor.

Albion Monitor March 14, 2003 (

All Rights Reserved.

Contact for permission to use in any format.