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Turkey: Kurdish opposition arrests 'ominous'

‘In the absence of any credible evidence of crimes, they should be immediately released’ - John Dalhuisen

Internet access blocked - Prime Minister says as ‘temporary precaution’

The detention of 12 deputies from the Kurdish-rooted leftist Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) since last night marks the latest escalation in the onslaught on dissent during Turkey’s state of emergency, Amnesty International said today.

The detentions, on a range of “terrorism”-related charges, follow the mass closures of Kurdish media outlets and the ousting of at least 24 pro-Kurdish mayors.

As the detentions took place, social media users in Turkey were unable to access services like Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp. Access to internet services in general remains limited across Turkey today. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said this afternoon that such measures were “temporary precautions” and would be lifted once “danger is eliminated”.

Investigations have now been initiated against 54 of the 59 deputies of the HDP, the third-largest party in Turkey’s Parliament. Parliamentary immunity was lifted in May in a move thought to have been designed specifically to enable the prosecution of the party’s deputies.

The twelve deputies from the party detained include the party’s co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ who are accused of “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation”, a provision routinely used to stifle dissent on Kurdish issues in Turkey. Three of the deputies have since been released, while five have been remanded in pre-trial detention. The party’s head offices in Ankara were also raided by police.

John Dalhuisen, Amnesty’s Europe Director, said:

“Today’s detention of HDP deputies is the latest escalation in the government’s evisceration of Kurdish opposition voices in public life.

“Coming after the blanket closure by executive decree of Turkey’s Kurdish media and the arrests of Diyarbakır’s co-mayors, it gravely undermines the rights to freedom of expression and association and severely restricts the ability to participate in public life. It is an ominous indicator of the road ahead under the state of emergency.

“The familiar pattern of arbitrary detentions under trumped-up terrorism charges followed by political show trials must not be allowed to unfold. In the absence of any credible evidence of crimes, they should be immediately released.”

The detentions come after other moves to oust pro-autonomy political voices from office. In September, 24 elected mayors from pro-autonomy Kurdish parties in the Kurdish-dominated south-east of Turkey were replaced by executive decree and, just last weekend, the HDP co-mayors of the high-profile Diyarbakır Municipality were detained and replaced with a trustee.

Also last weekend, executive decrees resulted in the blanket closures of media outlets, including the Kurdish daily newspaper, Özgür Gündem, the Kurdish language Azadiya Welat and the JINHA women’s news agency, along with local media outlets in the south-east and other opposition media in Turkey.

Following the news of the latest detentions, a suspected car bomb was detonated outside police headquarters in Diyarbakır. Eight people were reportedly killed in the blast including two police officers. No group has yet taken responsibility for the bombing.

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