Turkey detains HDP leaders Demirtas and Yuksekdag
Co-leaders of HDP party among 11 MPs in detention for not appearing at court over terror-related charges.
Turkey has arrested two co-leaders and nine other MPs of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), according to the country’s interior ministry.
The ministry said on Friday morning that detention orders for 13 MPs were issued, but only 11 were arrested as two were abroad.
Later in the day, another MP, Imam Tascier, announced through Twitter that he was being detained and one of the MPs in custody, Ziya Pir, was released. Eleven people remain in detention.
The HDP is the third largest party in the 550-seat Turkish parliament with 59 seats and the main political representative of the Kurdish minority.
HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtas was arrested at his home in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast, while Figen Yuksekdag was held in the capital Ankara, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
Anadolu reported the MPs were arrested for not appearing in court to testify for ongoing terrorism-related investigations.
READ MORE: Turkey shuts down TV channel over ‘terror propaganda’
The security operations took place after midnight, with Demirtas tweeting at 1:30am local time (22:30 GMT) that police had arrived at his home and he was about to be arrested.
Police also raided and searched the party’s head office in central Ankara. Television images showed party officials arguing with police during the raid.
Hundreds of arrests have been made in recent months since the government acquired state of emergency powers after a failed coup on July 15.
Authorities say that they have been going after anyone suspected of links to Fethullah Gulen, a US-based religious leader accused of orchestrating the coup attempt, as well as the outlawed armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Critics, though, say the government is using the coup as a pretext to muzzle all dissent.
The Turkish government accuses the HDP of having links to the PKK which is deemed a terrorist organisation by the United States, the European Union and Turkey. The HDP denies that.
Demirtas and Yuksekdag had been targeted by several separate investigations in recent months but this is the first time that either has been arrested. Their arrests follow a resolution by parliament earlier in the year allowing the immunity of MPs to be lifted.
“HDP call international community to react against Erdogan Regime’s coup,” the party said on Twitter, referring to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Access to social media, including Twitter and messaging services, such as WhatsApp, was jammed during and aftermath of the raids, with some in Turkey saying they used VPNs, or virtual private networks, to bypass the blocks.
READ MORE: How could failed coup affect Kurdish peace process?
Earlier this week Gultan Kisanak, the HDP mayor of the country’s biggest Kurdish majority city, Diyarbakir, along with co-mayor Firat Anli, was arrested over alleged membership in the PKK. The government appointed a local Ankara district administrator to take over Kisanak’s duties.
In September, the government similarly removed 28 mayors and other administrators, mostly from the HDP, and appointed trustees in their place.
Scores of opposition media organisations have been shut down since July, including pro-Kurdish ones such as IMC TV, the Dicle news agency and the Ozgur Gundem newspaper.