The two joint leaders of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic party(HDP)have been detained,along with at least 11 MPs,allegedly because of their reluctance to give testimony for crimes linked to “terrorist propaganda.”
Turkish police raided the Ankara home of co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş and the house of co-leader Figen Yuksekdag in Diyarbakir,the largest city in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish south-east,early on Friday,the party’s lawyers told Reuters.
At least 11 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.
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.
A widespread difficulty in reaching social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook as well as messaging app WhatsApp was also reported across Turkey after the detentions started at midnight.
Big things happening in#Turkey–internet totally off in southeast&HDP officials being detained.
+Rumor of imminent invasion of#Iraq.
—Charles Lister(@Charles_Lister)November 3,2016
Turkey has a tradition of blocking Twitter and other social media whenever internal tensions grow.
Demirtaş – 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.
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 faction in the Turkish parliament, Idris Baluken, was also held.
“HDP call international community to react against Erdoğan Regime’s coup,” the party said on Twitter, referring to president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Erdoğan has launched repeated personal attacks on Demirtaş, who analysts have seen as the sole politician in Turkey who comes anywhere near to rivalling his charisma.
Demirtaş has made it a personal crusade to oppose Erdoğan’s plan for a presidential system in Turkey, which the HDP says would lead to dictatorship.
Reportedly a massive blast has hit the police academy in Diyarbakir, a Turkish journalist announced in Twitter.
— Barzan Sadiq (@BarzanSadiq) November 4, 2016
— Yolculuk Gazetesi (@gazeteyolculuk) November 4, 2016