Kurds protest party closure in Istanbul

AP News
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Posted: Dec 13, 2009 10:26 AM

Some 200 Kurdish protesters hurled stones and firebombs at shops, homes and cars in one of Istanbul's busiest districts on Sunday, denouncing a court decision to close down a pro-Kurdish party on charges of ties to rebels.

More than 80 people were detained over the weekend at demonstrations protesting the Friday decision by Turkey's highest court to disband the Democratic Society Party because of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK

The ban has cast uncertainty over government efforts to grant Kurds greater rights in a bid to end a conflict with the autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebels.

On Sunday, police in riot gear fired tear and pepper gas to disperse Kurdish protesters in Istanbul's Beyoglu district, home to businesses and fashionable shops, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported. Several shops, residences and cars were damaged.

Police also prevented some angry residents, wielding knives, from trying to attack the protesters, the agency said, without elaborating. There were no immediate reports of any injuries.

Three people were reported injured by stones and plastic bullets in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir after police moved in to break up a similar protest there, Anatolia said.

Kurds also staged a protest in Beirut, Lebanon and clashed with police who tried to prevent them from marching to the Turkish embassy. At least four protesters were wounded.

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Democratic Society Party officials said lawyers were preparing to appeal its closure at the Strasbourg, France-based European Court of Human Rights.

The European Union has expressed concern over the ban, saying in a statement that "while strongly denouncing violence and terrorism, the presidency recalls that the dissolution of political parties is an exceptional measure that should be used with utmost restraint."

The PKK has fought for autonomy from the Turkish state since 1984. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the violence. The European Union and the United States consider the PKK a terrorist organization.