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Municipal officials among 30 detained in connection to attack in southern Turkey

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Turkish police have detained 30 people including municipal employees in the southern province of Mersin where a police officer was killed in an attack on police quarters on Monday night, Deutsche Welle Turkish edition reported.

Another officer and a civilian were also injured in the attack after two bombs exploded near the police quarters, used as a residence by the police and guarded by them in Mersin’s Mezitli district, following a shootout between two assailants and the police.

According to the Turkish Interior Ministry, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community, was behind the attack.

Eighteen employees of the Mersin Metropolitan Municipality including director for public affairs and press Bedrettin Güneş are among those detained as part of the investigation overseen by the Mersin Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, DW said.

Video footage on social media showed heavily armed police knocking on Güneş’s door and shouting at him before taking him into custody. A camera belonging to the state-run Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) is seen accompanying the police officers and filming the detention of Güneş.

The suspects are accused of disseminating terrorist propaganda.

The Mersin Municipality was one of the municipalities lost to the opposition in the local elections of 2019 by the Public Alliance, comprising President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its far-right ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Currently run by a mayor from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the municipality is frequently targeted by AKP and MHP officials, and its employees face legal harassment on allegations that they have links to the PKK, which has been waging a bloody war in Turkey’s Southeast since 1984.

The municipality’s former mayor was from the MHP.

Earlier this month, another 10 employees from the municipality were detained on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda based on their messages on social media.

The detentions took place after Olcay Kılavuz, a Mersin lawmaker from the MHP, accused the municipality of employing terrorists, implying that they have connections to the PKK.

Kılavuz previously claimed that “terrorist organization members” were employed at the Mersin Municipality and that its mayor, Vahap Seçer, was “a national security issue for our state, nation and Turkey,” calling on the Interior Ministry to take action.

Rights groups and dissidents regularly accuse President Erdoğan and his AKP government of using the judiciary as a political tool, particularly after thousands of judges were purged in the wake of an attempted coup in 2016.

Prominent figures from the CHP, including its leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, İstanbul branch chairperson Canan Kaftancıoğlu and İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, have been the subject of frequent judicial harassment on accusations that include insulting Erdoğan and other public officials.

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