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Turkey Detains Leaders of Kurdish Opposition Party

The Turkish police detained the two co-leaders of Turkey's main Kurdish opposition party and several of its lawmakers on Friday during early-morning raids as part of a counterterrorism investigation, the state news media reported.

The leaders, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag of the Peoples' Democratic Party, were detained after police officers in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir and the capital, Ankara, raided their homes, according to officials from the party, known as the H.D.P.

Simultaneous raids were carried out at the party's headquarters in Ankara, where at least nine of its members of Parliament were detained.

Mr. Demirtas, whose coolness under pressure and rhetorical skills have prompted comparisons to President Obama, had until recently been considered a bright star on Turkey's political scene. He had widened the H.D.P.'s appeal by attracting liberal and secular voters before the government intensified its efforts to undermine him and his party.

The detentions on Friday appeared to be part of a wider crackdown on the party, Turkey's fourth-largest. The Turkish government has accused it of being the political wing of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, a Kurdish militant group that renewed a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state last year after the breakdown of a two-year cease-fire.

The H.D.P., which became Turkey's first pro-Kurdish party to enter Parliament last year when it won 59 out of 550 seats, denies links to Kurdish militants. It says that it seeks to promote a peaceful solution to the Kurdish conflict while defending the rights of Kurds.

"The H.D.P. calls on the international community to react against Erdogan Regime's coup," the party said in a message posted on Twitter after the detentions of its members, referring to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

This year, lawmakers from the governing Justice and Development Party pushed through an amendment to the Turkish Constitution to strip members of Parliament of their legal immunity, a move that is likely to lead to the ouster of Kurdish deputies.

The government has expanded a crackdown on its Kurdish opponents in recent weeks, using extraordinary powers granted by a state of emergency that was declared after a failed military coup against Mr. Erdogan on July 15.

Dozens of elected mayors have been detained or arrested on terrorism charges in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern region, more than 20 Kurdish news outlets have been shut down, and tens of thousands of Kurdish teachers have been dismissed from schools.

As the raids continued on Friday, social media disruptions were reported across Turkey, with monitoring groups reporting difficulties reaching Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and WhatsApp.

[Source: By Ceylan Yeginsu, The New York Times, Istanbul, 03Nov16]

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small logoThis document has been published on 07Nov16 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.