Turkish police have detained several officials of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), as prosecutors increase the pressure on the country’s third-largest party, as well as the chief of a human rights group.
A top public prosecutor on Wednesday demanded the dissolution of the left-wing opposition HDP over alleged links to Kurdish fighters. The move followed the expulsion of an HDP politician from parliament on the same day.
Officers detained 10 people in Istanbul, including three HDP district chairs in the city, state news agency Anadolu reported on Friday, over suspected links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Police were on the hunt for five others, the agency added.
Separately, Ozturk Turkdogan, head of the Ankara-based Human Rights Association (IHD), was also detained on Friday in the Turkish capital and his house was raided, the organisation 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.
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.
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.
Ankara says the HDP is the political front for the PKK, a claim the party denies.
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.
Supreme Court Prosecutor Bekir Sahin, who filed the case, alleged that the HDP “was acting together with PKK terrorists and affiliated organisations, acting as an extension of such organisations”.
He added that such activity threatened “to destroy the indivisibility between the state and the people”.
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.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long portrayed the HDP as the political front of the PKK.
The HDP, which won 11.7 percent of the vote in a 2018 parliamentary election and has 55 seats in the 600-member parliament, accused Erdogan’s Justice and Development (AK) Party of shaping politics through the courts. It denies any links to the fighters.
The move to close the HDP is the latest in a series of crackdowns on the party since 2016 during which a majority of its elected mayors have been dismissed and replaced by government-appointed trustees.
The United States and the European Union condemned the move on Wednesday to close the party, saying it undermined democracy in Turkey. Ankara rejected their criticism.
The PKK has fought a rebellion against the state in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey since 1984. More than 40,000 people have reportedly been killed in the conflict.