Turkish police in the early hours of Tuesday detained the co-chair and members of the Health and Social Service Employees Union (SES) over alleged terrorist links, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing Turkish media.
Co-chair of SES Selma Atabey and seven members of the union including former co-chairs Gönül Erden and Bedriye Yorgun were arrested by police in Ankara, Istanbul, Van and Tunceli provinces due to their alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK).
The detentions took place as part of an investigation overseen by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
On Monday, 49 people including local chairs and former mayors from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were taken into custody following house raids in Istanbul, Diyarbakır, Batman, Adana, Şırnak, Tunceli and Antalya provinces as part of an investigation conducted by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The suspects were accused of “membership in a terrorist organization.”
The HDP stands accused of links to the PKK, but the party strongly denies any ties. The PKK has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 and is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.
The Turkish government has stepped up political pressure on its Kurdish minority in recent years, seizing Kurdish-run municipalities and arresting their mayors. Dozens of trustees have been appointed by the Interior Ministry to mostly pro-Kurdish municipalities in Turkey’s Southeast, replacing the elected mayors and city council members.
Former HDP co-chairman and previous presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş has been behind bars since November 2016.