Turkish authorities have arrested the head of the bar association in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir on a charge of "promoting terrorism" after he commented on the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) group during a televised debate.

Tuesday's detainment of Tahir Elci, a prominent lawyer who last week said on the CNN Turk news network that "the PKK is not a terrorist group", came against the backdrop of heightened conflict between the Kurdish fighters and the army in the country's southeast.

On Wednesday, Elci described the PKK, which has been designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and the EU, as an "armed political organisation with large support".


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Ahmet Ay, a lawyer from Elci's bar association, said that he was arrested a couple of days after returning from Istanbul - where he took part in the TV programme.

"After the show, the Istanbul prosecutor's office issued a warrant against him for promoting terrorism," Ay told Al Jazeera.

"He was taken back to Istanbul from Diyarbakir after his arrest. He is in detention at the Istanbul prosecutor's office now, waiting to be questioned," he added.

"The prosecutor is to decide if he will appear in court or not following the questioning process."

A crowd outside Elci's office protested against his detention, a video broadcast by CNN Turk showed.

Emma Sinclair-Webb, a Turkey researcher at Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter that the court order to detain Elci is "another nail in Turkey's human rights record", and described his arrest as "an intimidating show of force by Turkey's government-controlled courts".

The PKK has been campaigning and fighting for more Kurdish autonomy in the southeastern areas of the country since 1984. Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict.

Source: Al Jazeera