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Ankara prosecutors launch investigation into HDP congress over Öcalan pictures

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The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into a congress held on Sunday by the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) over a slide show that included pictures of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported.

The prosecutor’s office released a statement on Tuesday announcing the investigation over the slide show that featured images of Öcalan.

“Within the scope of the investigation, detention warrants have been issued for 15 people who were found to have taken part in the slide show’s preparation. Fourteen of the suspects were taken into custody the same day, while the search for the other is still ongoing,” the statement read.

The announcement came after a call for an investigation was made on Tuesday by Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and an ally of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“Public prosecutors must absolutely start criminal proceedings against this separatist congress organized by the HDP. Turkey is not a banana republic. It is not an ethnic coalition,” Bahçeli said during his party’s meeting in parliament.

The PKK has been leading a violent insurgency in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast for nearly four decades. Its leader Öcalan was captured by Turkish security forces in Nairobi in 1999.

He was subsequently sentenced to death; however, the sentence was commuted to aggravated life as Turkey abolished the death penalty as part of its bid to become a member of the European Union.

Turkey as well as the EU and the United States consider the PKK a terrorist group, although the AKP-led government has conducted peace talks with the PKK leadership in the past.

Since the breakdown of the peace talks in the summer of 2015, the HDP has increasingly come under fire due to terrorism-related allegations, and it has frequently been accused of being PKK’s political branch.

Scores of its elected mayors in the Southeast have been removed by Turkey’s Interior Ministry over the last four years. Many of them were subsequently tried on terrorism-related charges.

Former HDP co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ have been imprisoned since November 2016. Turkey has defied a European Court of Human Rights ruling calling for Demirtaş’s release.

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