“The Constitutional Court procrastinated about the DTP. It was waiting for a constitutional regulation on party closures, but Parliament was not able to do that. The decision of the ECtHR on Batasuna might affect the DTP case,” the same source, who preferred to remain anonymous, said.

The ECtHR on Tuesday confirmed a 2003 ban on Batasuna, which is widely regarded as the political wing of the armed Basque separatist group ETA, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the European Union. ETA has been held responsible for more than 820 deaths since 1968.

The DTP is also frequently accused of being a front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union. Like Batasuna, which has refused to condemn attacks by ETA, the DTP does not denounce the actions of the PKK.

Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalçınkaya in 2007 filed charges against the DTP and demanded the permanent closure of the party. He claimed that the DTP members’ actions and statements run counter to the independence of the state and the indivisible integrity of its territory and nation and that the party has become the focal point of these acts.

The indictment against the DTP calls for 221 members, including eight of its deputies, to be banned from membership in a political party for five years. It also asks that the DTP be prevented from participating in elections until the case is finalized, that all the members, administrators, deputies and mayors of the DTP are banned from running in elections as independents or representing another party and that new members are not permitted to join the DTP. However, the Constitutional Court refused to implement those measures in a decision in December 2007, and the DTP was able to run in the local elections in March 2009 and won 99 municipalities.

Batasuna had 10 percent of the vote in the Basque area, while the DTP had more than 6.5 percent in Turkey.

According to procedure, following the verbal defense, which was completed last year, the rapporteur of the Constitutional Court will collect documents and information related to the case and will prepare his report. After the rapporteur’s report is distributed to the 11 members of the court, Constitutional Court President Haşim Kılıç will determine a day when the justices will convene to hear the case. Under the Constitution, for a political party to be closed down, at least seven out of 11 members of the Constitutional Court must vote for closure.

In December Kılıç had said that they were not in the rapporteur phase and needed additional evidence. The Constitutional Court were able to reach a verdict about the closure case against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which was indicted six months before the DTP, but the AK Party did not request any additional time for its defense.

Hasip Kaplan, the DTP’s Şırnak deputy, told Today’s Zaman that the closure case had not reach the rapporteur stage yet since the Constitutional Court was waiting for the decisions of the local courts against members of the DTP. “There are around 300 cases against our rank-and-file party members,” he said.

Kaplan added that he had not read the verdict of the ECtHR about Batasuna yet and claimed that their cases are different: “Actually I don’t think that there is a similarity between Batasuna and our case. We are defending a peaceful, democratic solution within the unity of the state,” he underlined.

He also recalled that the ECtHR in its verdicts on the predecessors of the DTP had found Turkey guilty of violating freedom of expression and assembly.  Spain’s Constitutional Court had previously confirmed the ban imposed by the Supreme Court in 2003. In 2004, Batasuna appealed to the court in Strasbourg, arguing that the ban violated freedom of expression and association. The European tribunal sided with legal representatives of the Spanish government, who argued that Batasuna itself violated democracy by using violence to reach its goals. The dissolution of the party was a “social necessity” in order to maintain public security, order, rights and freedom, the court said in a unanimous ruling.

Akın Özçer, an expert on Spain and the author of several books about nationalism in Spain, said that the ECtHR’s decision on Batasuna is not a surprise since it had organic ties with ETA but, he added, people have to be careful when comparing Batasuna with the DTP.

“It is true that there are similarities between Batasuna and the DTP, but there are some differences between Spain and Turkey,” he said. He explained that in Spain political parties can defend separatist ideas as long as they are not involved in violence. “The closure case against the DTP is focusing on separatism. To think that the ECtHR will give the same decision about the DTP as it did for Batasuna might be wrong,” he said.

03.07.2009

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