Turkish authorities have arrested scores of people, including members of a pro-Kurdish political party — in connection to violent protests six years ago over Islamic State’s siege of a Syrian Kurdish city, Reuters reports.
Thirty-seven people were killed in October 2014 when protesters took to the streets in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast region, accusing the Turkish army of standing by as Islamic State besieged Kobani, located close to the Syrian border.
Now authorities say they’ve arrested 82 people. Prosecutors say the warrants were issued over, quote, “several calls made to invite the public to the streets and carry out terror acts,” adding suspects would be sought in seven provinces.
Ankara accuses the pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party, or HDP, of links to the Kurdistan Workers Party, also known as the PKK, and inciting the demonstrations.
The PKK has been designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States, and European Union.
“The government wants to intimidate the opposition by silencing HDP and to spread fear amongst the public. HDP is not stopping speaking and will not. And we are sure that the public and political opposition will not be intimidated,” said Peoples Democratic Party Co-chairman Mithat Sancar.
Broadcaster NTV and other media named HDP members among the suspects and said some had already been detained.
HDP Istanbul MP Garo Paylan said: “With the order received from the Palace, the prosecutor detained our friends. The order is to finish the HDP. HDP is a hope for freedom.
The Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament issued a statement to condemn the crackdown on HDP.
“The detention of these people, including former members of parliament, is another step backwards pushing Turkey even further away from the EU,” former Turkey rapporteur and Dutch MEP Kati Piri said, calling for the detainees’ immediate release.
“Turkish authorities seem determined to establish some kind of overall retroactive state of emergency in order to further suppress opposition and any critical voices,” current European Parliament Rapporteur on Turkey Nacho Sánchez Amor said.
Sánchez Amor pointed to Ayhan Bilgen, the mayor of eastern Kars province who was one of the few remaining HDP mayors who had not been replaced by a government appointee. “If he was to be replaced by a trustee, it would be the umpteenth attack against the democratic will of the people as expressed in the last local elections,” he said.