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DIYARBAKIR-AMED, Turkey’s Kurdish region,— A Turkish court has ordered the detention of the two Kurdish mayors of Diyarbakir, the largest city in the Kurdish southeast of the country, accusing them of “terrorist” activities linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Gultan Kisanak and Firat Anli, jointly elected in 2014, were Sunday accused of “belonging to an armed terrorist organisation” and providing “logistical support to an armed terrorist organisation”, according to a statement by the court in Diyarbakir.
Their detention comes five days after they were taken into police custody Tuesday evening, which sparked an outbreak of violence in the southeast.
Ayla Akat Ata, a former lawmaker from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which Kisanak and Anli belong to, was also detained Sunday night.
The moves come at a tense time, with multiple arrests and suspensions of local officials accused of links to the PKK and the closure of a dozen pro-Kurdish media ordered by official decree Saturday night.
Three policemen were seriously wounded Sunday night in a bomb attack against the offices of the ruling AKP party in Mardin province, which neighbours Diyarbakir, according to the Dogan news agency, which attributed the attack to the PKK.
Several hundred people held demonstrations Sunday to demand the release of the mayors in Diyarbakir and in Istanbul, where police used tear gas to disperse the protesters, an AFP journalist said.
Speaking to about 500 people gathered near the town hall in Diyarbakir on Sunday, Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), accused the authorities of holding the mayors “hostage”.
“All those who do not say ‘Erdogan is our sultan’ are declared ‘terrorists’,” said Demirtas, calling on “democratic forces” to mobilise.
“We will not retreat, whatever the cost,” he added.
Erdogan accuses the HDP and BDP of being linked to the PKK, which is listed as a terror group by Ankara, the European Union and the United States.
In September, 24 mayors in the southeast suspected of links to the PKK were suspended and replaced with officials close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) co-founded by Erdogan, a move that triggered protests in several cities in the region.
In the same month, the government suspended 11,500 Kurdish teachers suspected of links to the PKK.
The PKK took up arms in 1984 against the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to push for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority who make up around 22.5 million of the country’s 78-million population. A large Kurdish community in Turkey and worldwide openly sympathise with PKK rebels.
In September Turkish authorities have stopped broadcasts of 10 mostly Kurdish language television channels under state of emergency rules imposed in the wake of the July 15 coup bid.
Eutelsat has suspended the broadcast of Belgium based pro-Kurdish MED Nuçe TV.
Since July 2015, Turkey initiated a controversial military campaign against the PKK in the country’s southeastern Kurdish region after Ankara ended a two-year ceasefire agreement. Since the beginning of the campaign, Ankara has imposed several round-the-clock curfews, preventing civilians from fleeing regions where the military operations are being conducted.
Observers say the crackdown has taken a heavy toll on the Kurdish civilian population and accuse Turkey of using collective punishment against the minority.
Activists have accused the security forces of causing huge destruction to urban centres and killing Kurdish civilians. But the government says the operations are essential for public safety, blaming the PKK for the damage.
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