Turkish police on Tuesday detained at least 17 people in raids in İstanbul in another operation targeting Kurds ahead of critical presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Artı Gerçek news website.
The detainees include members of the youth council of the pro-Kurdish Green Left Party as well as executives of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK).
The raids that took place across several districts of İstanbul were carried out as part of an investigation overseen by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
It was not immediately clear on which charges the 17 people were detained, but it is not uncommon in Turkey for Kurds, especially politicians, to face terrorism-related charges due to their alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a bloody campaign in Turkey’s southeast since 1984 and is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
The detainees were taken to the İstanbul Police Department for questioning.
As the May 14 elections approach, the Turkish government has intensified an ongoing legal assault on Kurds, who are seen as the kingmaker in the presidential election.
Last week Turkey saw the detention of a total of 143 people as part of a Diyarbakır-based operation that was conducted in 21 provinces. Among the detainees, who included politicians, lawyers, activists and journalists, 48 were arrested later in the week on terrorism-related charges.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has often accused the HDP of alleged links to the PKK, which the party denies.
The HDP said in March that it would not field a presidential candidate in the May 14 elections, giving tacit support to Erdoğan’s main rival, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the joint presidential candidate of an opposition alliance of six parties.
The party announced in late April that it would support Kılıçdaroğlu.
The HDP, which faces a closure case on terrorism charges, will run in the elections under the banner of the YSP, to avoid the risks of the party’s closure before the elections.