Kurdish Issue

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Turkey arrests pro-Kurdish party leaders amid claims of internet shutdown

demirtash-hdp-co-chair

Selahattin Demirtas, co-leader of the pro-Kurdish HDP, Turkey’s third largest party, was arrested at his home in Ankara. Photograph: STRINGER/TURKEY/REUTERS

The two joint leaders of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP) have been detained along with at least 10 MPs because of their reluctance to give testimony for crimes linked to “terrorist propaganda”.

Turkish police raided the Ankara home of co-leader Selahattin Demirtas and the house of co-leader Figen Yuksekdag in Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish south-east, early on Friday.

Demirtas – a charismatic leader dubbed the “Kurdish Obama” by some admirers – and Yuksekdag had been targeted by several separate probes over the last months but this is the first time that either has been detained.

At least 10 other HDP parliamentarians were also detained, lawyers said, in a major escalation of the government’s crackdown on its opponents in the wake of the failed coup on 15 July. Raids also took place in the south-eastern cities of Van and Bingol.

Hours after the detentions began a car bomb in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir killed at least one person and injured 30 in a powerful explosion outside a police building Turkish authorities blamed on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants.

The Turkish justice minister, Bekir Bozdag, said on Friday that the detention of the HDP MPs was in line with the law in comments broadcast on state television.

Others detained included the prominent MP, Sirri Surreya Onder, who in the past has been a pointman for contacts with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. The head of the HDP’s delegation in the Turkish parliament, Idris Baluken, was also held.

HDP is the third largest party in the 550-seat Turkish parliament, with 59 seats. Parliamentarians in Turkey normally enjoy immunity from prosecution, but the pro-Kurdish party’s immunity was lifted earlier this year.

Turkey accuses the HDP of links to the Kurdish militant group PKK, which is deemed a terrorist organisation by the United States, the European Union and Turkey.

Police also raided and searched the party’s head office in central Ankara. Television images showed party officials quarreling with police during the raid, and a Reuters witness said many police cars and armed vehicles had closed the entrances to the street of the HDP headquarters.

“HDP call international community to react against Erdogan Regime’s coup,” the party said on Twitter, referring to president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A group of protesters chanting slogans tried to reach the party offices, but were stopped by police before they could enter the street, a Reuters witness said.

 “Very bad news from Turkey. Again. Now HDP members of parliament are being detained,” European parliament’s Turkey rapporteur, Kati Piri, said on Twitter.

The raids come as Turkey remains under a state of emergency imposed in the wake of the coup, which critics say has gone well beyond targeting the actual coup plotters.

Thirteen staff from the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper, including the editor-in-chief, were detained on Monday, further heightening strains in Turkish society.

Tensions have surged in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of Turkey since a fragile ceasefire declared by the PKK collapsed in 2015. The HDP seeks to promote the cause of Turkey’s Kurdish minority and defend the rights of Kurds as well as those of women, gays and workers.

But the authorities accuse the party of being a front for the PKK and failing to distance itself from terror, claims it has always vehemently denied.

Erdogan has launched repeated personal attacks on Demirtas, who analysts have seen as the sole politician in Turkey who comes anywhere near to rivalling his charisma.

Demirtas has made it a personal crusade to oppose Erdogan’s plan for a presidential system in Turkey, which the HDP says would lead to dictatorship.

Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.

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This entry was posted on 2016-11-04 by in News Articles.
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