Turkish gov’t detains 90 people including 4 Kurdish journalists over alleged PKK links

The Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday issued detention warrants for 151 people including journalists in operations targeting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its umbrella organization, the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), online news outlet Gazete Duvar reported.

According to the report 90 people, including journalists Abdurrahman Gök, Esra Solin Dal, Kibriye Evren and Semiha Alankuş and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and Democratic Regions Party (DBP) members, were detained in early morning operations in nine provinces across Turkey. Over 300 HDP members were taken into custody in a week, the report said.

The Turkish Interior Ministry on Friday announced that 88 people have been detained in operations targeting the PKK and KCK.

The new operations came two days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he would appoint trustees to municipalities in which anyone linked to the PKK is elected as mayor in local elections in March 2019.

Erdoğan on Sunday also said they would “never accept the HDP as an interlocutor until they sever ties with the terrorist organization.”

“What was said yesterday was a declaration of the uselessness of Turkey’s Supreme Election Board [YSK], Constitution and Constitutional Court,” HDP spokesperson Ayhan Bilgen said on Monday.

The Turkish government has appointed trustees to 94 of 102 municipalities run by the DBP and the HDP and arrested 93 mayors and 81 council members across southern Turkey over alleged terrorism links since Sept. 11, 2016. More than 2,000 people have been dismissed by trustees from their municipal jobs.

The PKK, which has been waging a bloody war in Turkey’s Southeast for more than three decades, is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US.

Many HDP deputies including the party’s former co-chairpersons and local politicians are facing terror charges and are jailed due to an ongoing government crackdown on Kurdish politicians in the country. The HDP remains the second largest opposition party in Turkey’s newly restructured, 600-member parliament.

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 237 journalists and media workers were in jail as of October 7, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 169 were under arrest pending trial while only 68 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 148 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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