20,000 march in Berlin to demand PKK ban lifted

AFP , Saturday 16 Nov 2013

Some 20,000 people marched through central Berlin on Saturday to demand the German government lift its 20-year ban on the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), organisers said.

Under a heavy police presence, the protest passed off peacefully with demonstrators marching under the banner: "Support the peace process, lift the ban on the PKK."

Despite the ban on the PKK, in place in Germany since 1993, the organisation enjoys considerable support there, with an estimated 500,000 Kurds in the country -- the majority of Turkish origin.

German authorities believe the PKK has around 11,500 active members.

Organisers of the march said police had been stopping protesters to search for banners displaying imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and imposing fines on those possessing them.

Police provided no estimate of turnout.

The protest in Berlin came as Turkey's prime minister welcomed the leader of Iraq's autonomous north to his country's own Kurdish-dominated territory for the first time in a bid to kickstart a stalled peace process.

The PKK agreed this year to withdraw its estimated 2,000 fighters to their bases in northern Iraq. In return, it is demanding wider constitutional rights for Turkey's 15 million Kurds.

Some 45,000 people have died in the Kurdish conflict since 1984.

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