One day after Turkey announced the killing of 13 Turkish nationals held hostage in northern Iraq by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Turkish police on Monday detained 718 people including politicians from a pro-Kurdish party on terrorism charges, according to a statement from the Interior Ministry.
The ministry statement said the raids were conducted across 40 Turkish provinces and that detainees include provincial and district chairs of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). The operations were aimed at exposing the activities of the PKK and its umbrella organization, the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), inside Turkey, according to the ministry.
The HDP, which has long been accused of links to the PKK, has come under fire once again following the killing of the 13 Turkish hostages in the Gara region of northern Iraq on Feb. 14. Turkey claims the hostages were killed by the PKK, while the PKK on Sunday admitted that a group of prisoners had died but rejected Ankara’s version of events, saying instead that they had been killed by Turkish air strikes.
The losses reported on Sunday were expected to exert pressure on the HDP, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accuses of being a political front for the outlawed PKK.
The HDP is the second-largest opposition group in parliament.
Dozens of HDP elected and party officials have been arrested since 2016, raising concerns among Western countries.
On Sunday the HDP expressed “deep sadness” over the deaths of the 13 Turks in Iraq, calling on the PKK to free its remaining prisoners, while some HDP deputies criticized the government for not ensuring the safe rescue of the hostages after talks with the PKK.