Diyarbakır provincial co-chairs of pro-Kurdish HDP arrested

Hülya Alökmen (left) and Zeyat Ceylan

Zeyyat Ceylan and Hülya Alökmen Uyanık, the Diyarbakır provincial co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), were arrested today on the charge of membership in an armed terrorist organization, according to Turkish media.

Uyanık and Ceylan were detained on October 22, together with the HDP’s Yenişehir district co-chairs, Remziye Sızıcı and Kasım Kaya, who were released under judicial supervision.

In a statement on Twitter the HDP said Uyanık and Ceylan’s “unlawful arrests were a continuance of the revenge moves directed against the party.” The statement also accused the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its unofficial coalition partner the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) of preventing the HDP from taking part in the political process.

According to the pro-government media, outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) flags and posters of its jailed leader, Abdullah Öcalan, were seized at the party’s provincial and district offices during police raids on October 22 together with “organizational documents, notes and digital media.” The PKK is an armed secessionist group listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

The Turkish government accuses the HDP of links to the PKK, but human rights groups say the government uses vague and spurious allegations of terrorism in order to remove or imprison democratically elected HDP mayors.

In a statement on October 2, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch Tom Porteous said, “Detaining politicians from a party that won nearly 12 percent of the vote in the 2018 general election is part of the Turkish government’s policy to criminalize political opposition.”

The HDP won 65 municipalities in Turkey’s eastern and southeastern regions in the local elections of March 31, 2019. In six cases the elected officials were not allowed to resume their duties due to decisions made by Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK). In the other cases, the elected mayors were removed by the Ministry of Interior. The HDP no longer has any provincial municipalities left and only has six smaller municipalities.

The party’s most important figures, such as former co-chair and presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş, have been thrown in jail on terror charges, and about a third of all party members have been arrested.

Last month 82 prominent members of the HDP were detained over their alleged role in protests in southeastern Turkey that turned violent and led to at least 37 deaths. The protests, which took place between October 6 and October 8, 2014, were a reaction to what is seen by many as the Turkish government’s tacit approval of the Kobane siege in 2014, when Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants laid a prolonged siege to a Kurdish town in northern Syria. The government has made repeated statements holding the HDP responsible for the deaths that occurred.

Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, former co-chairs of the party who have been in pre-trial detention since November 2016, were detained as part of the same criminal investigation.

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