Turkish police on Friday detained dozens of pro-Kurdish party officials and a renowned human rights activist, as prosecutors increase the pressure on the country’s third-largest party, Agence France-Presse reported.
A top public prosecutor on Wednesday demanded the dissolution of the leftist opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) over alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The move followed the expulsion of an HDP MP from parliament on the same day.
The HDP said at least 36 party members were detained, including 10 in İstanbul among which were three HDP district chairs, over suspected PKK links.
Police were on the hunt for five others, the agency added.
Özturk Türkdoğan, head of the Ankara-based Human Rights Association (IHD), was also detained on Friday in the Turkish capital and his house was raided, the organization said.
“Our lawyers are trying to obtain information about this case. His arrest is a blatant human rights violation. He must be released now,” the IHD tweeted.
Breaking news: Mr Ozturk Turkdogan, İHD president, was arrested by police officers. His house was raided this morning.
Our lawyers try to obtain information about this case.
His arrest is a blatant human rights violation.
He must be released now. pic.twitter.com/FDYx5WjJnC
— İHD Genel Merkezi (@ihd_genelmerkez) March 19, 2021
The Ankara chief public prosecutor’s office on Friday said it had issued 12 detention warrants for suspects over their alleged ties to the PKK.
Friday’s detentions attracted international criticism as prominent rights group the Amnesty International’s (AI) Europe Director Nils Muižnieks tweeted: “Öztürk Türkdoğan, chairman of Turkey’s Human Rights Association’s (IHD), was arrested in a raid by police on his home this morning. Police detained 10 HDP officials this morning in Istanbul and Ankara. This must stop!”
BREAKING NEWS – Öztürk Türkdoğan, chairman of Turkey's Human Rights Association’s (IHD), was arrested in a raid by police on his home this morning. Police detained 10 HDP officials this morning in Istanbul and Ankara. This must stop!
— NilsMuiz (@MuizNils) March 19, 2021
Philippe Dam of Human Rights Watch (HRW) described the IHD chief’s detention as “outrageous” in a tweet.
Dam also asked whether European Union chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel would raise the detention and other human rights issues in a video call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expected at 1215 GMT.
Government critics and rights activists noted the latest legal assault on the party began a little more than two weeks after Erdoğan unveiled a human rights “action plan.”
“Seems the Human Rights Action Plan has become a human rights violation plan,” Emma Sinclair-Webb of HRW tweeted.
Ankara says the HDP is the political front for the PKK, which the party denies.
The PKK is blacklisted as a terrorist organization by Ankara, the US and the EU, and has waged a war against the Turkish state since 1984.
Turkish media reported that police had also launched an operation to capture 15 suspects accused of making social media propaganda for the PKK in the southern province of Adana.
The indictment to dissolve the HDP put before the Constitutional Court also seeks to ban 687 party members from engaging in politics for five years.
The court took the first step on Friday with the appointment of a rapporteur to conduct the investigation and prepare a report for the court’s 15 judges.
It is the latest in a series of crackdowns on the HDP since 2016 during which a majority of its elected mayors have been dismissed and replaced by government-appointed trustees.