Turkish police on Thursday briefly detained 10 members of the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) who were helping earthquake victims in the southern Turkish province of Osmaniye, where a devastating earthquake struck last week, on charges of allegedly stealing humanitarian aid material belonging to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).
According to lawyer Okan Alay, 70 police officers entered the tent of TKP members distributing urgent assistance to earthquake victims. The phones of party members who reported the situation to party headquarters were taken, and 10 party members were detained.
Alay also said police officers told them that only AFAD is allowed to provide assistance, which party members claimed was untrue.
The party members in custody were released after questioning the same day.
Many Twitter users reacted to the detentions by pointing out that the TKP had coordinated numerous relief efforts, including the distribution of hot meals, in the earthquake-affected areas since February 6, when the first quake hit.
Turkey’s most powerful earthquake in almost 100 years, which struck near the city of Gaziantep in the early hours of February 6, has so far claimed the lives of 36,187 people in Turkey in addition to injuring more than 100,000. Close to 220,000 disaster victims have been evacuated from the region to date, according to the latest official figures.
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that jolted the region in the middle of search and rescue efforts the same day.
Independent charity organizations and political parties conducting relief work have been facing increasing pressure from the government and are accused of equating themselves with the state since the deadly earthquakes hit Turkey.