ANKARA — Turkey's constitutional court will begin final deliberations next week on whether to outlaw the country's main Kurdish party on charges of links to separatist rebels.
The court said on its web site it would convene Tuesday to decide the fate of the Democratic Society Party (DTP), a process that Could take several days or weeks.
Turkey's chief prosecutor initiated the case in 2007, arguing the DTP had become a "focal point" of activities against national unity through its links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has led a bloody 25-year insurgency in the southeast.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community.
The court will make its ruling against a backdrop of a government drive to expand Kurdish freedoms in a bid to erode popular support for the PKK and encourage rebels to end the insurgency, which has claimed about 45,000 lives.
The DTP, which holds 21 seats in the 550-member parliament, says it has "no organic links" with the PKK.
However, it refuses to brand the PKK a terrorist group, party members often uphold the rebels and their jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan, and PKK banners are a fixture at DTP rallies.
Most recently, the party angered Ankara when it organised a hero's welcome in October for eight PKK militants who had been living in exile. They were freed after surrendering to the Turkish authorities on their return in a gesture of good will to Ankara's reform pledges.
The DTP, led by veteran politician Ahmet Turk, was founded in 2005 as a successor to several Kurdish parties the constitutional court shut down for collaborating with the PKK.
Meanwhile Turkey's Interior Minister Besir Atalay said Thursday 153 people were being prosecuted for taking part in demonstrations that began a week ago to demand better treatment for Ocalan.
"We are determined to allow no actions aimed at our security," Atalay told the Anatolia news agency, denouncing "illegal acts."
Since last weekend, the anniversary of the founding of the PKK, Kurds have demonstrated across Turkey daily, sparking clashes with police.
DTP leader Ahmet Turk said on Tuesday that Ocalan's case was the key to a settlement of the Kurdish conflict.
PKK founder Ocalan, 61, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1999, is held on an island in the Sea of Marmara. Last month he was moved to a smaller cell but is now allowed to mingle with other inmates after years of solitary confinement.
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