Turkish police detain 41 in raid on pro-Kurdish HDP meeting

Police on Saturday raided a public meeting held by Turkey’s opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in İstanbul, detaining 41 members of the party and the press, the Mezopotamya news agency reported.

Among those detained by the police at the HDP gathering, held in preparation for May 1, International Workers Day in İstanbul’s Güngören district, were the party’s İstanbul Co-chair Cengiz Çiçek and Mezopotamya staff members Melike Ceyhan and Servet Karaduman, reported the agency.

The detainees were taken to the Merter Keresteciler Police Station where following their police interrogation, 31 of the 41 detained were released. Ten still remain in police custody, the agency said.

The HDP İstanbul provincial organization released a statement via Twitter following the incident. ‘’We do not accept attacks against democratic politics and call on our people to support our party,’’ the statement said.

Also on Saturday, several HDP members were taken into custody following house raids in Denizli province. According to a report by the pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF), HDP Denizli provincial co-president Cevahir Kayar’s house was also raided. Her husband, Muhlis Kayar, was detained.

The HDP is the second-largest opposition party in the Turkish Parliament, the former co-leader of which, Selahattin Demirtas, has been in prison since November 2016.

The Turkish government’s crackdown on the Kurdish political movement began in late 2016 with the arrest of high profile politicians, including the party’s then co-chairs, Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş, which led to the detention of at least 5,000 members of the HDP, including 80 mayors.

Trustees have been appointed to dozens of municipalities in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast. There are currently 9 HDP deputies behind bars. The developments have attracted widespread criticism from the region and Western countries.

Turkish authorities had conducted direct talks with Abdullah Öcalan, jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) for several years until a truce in effect collapsed in the summer of 2015. Since then, there have been heavy clashes between the PKK and Turkish security forces.

More than 40,000 people, including 5,500 security force members, have been killed in four decades of fighting between the Turkish state and the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU. Over 1,200 Turkish security personnel and civilians, including a number of women and children, have been killed since July 2015 alone, when the Turkish government and the PKK resumed the armed struggle.

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