Turkish police detain unspecified number of pro-Kurdish HDP politicians

Turkish police detained an unspecified number of politicians from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in eastern Kars province on Friday.

According to a report by the pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF), several houses were raided and an unspecified number politicians were taken into custody as part of an operation. Among the detainees are former HDP deputy Şafak Özanlı, HDP Kars provincial co-chair Ekrem Savcı, former HDP provincial co-chair Cengiz Topbaşlı, HDP group deputy chair Ayhan Bilgen’s advisor Hayati Mehmetoğlu and pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions’ Party (DBP) Kars provincial co-chair Cengiz Anlı.

The detained politicians were taken to the local police station. Meanwhile, Bilgen protested the detentions on his Twitter account, saying, “The campaign began soon after the announcement of the election calendar.”

On the other hand, former HDP Party Assembly member Zeki Koç, who had been detained in the İskenderun district of Hatay the day before, has been arrested. Koç is accused of “membership in an illegal organization,” “spreading propaganda for an illegal organization” and “aiding and abetting an illegal organization.”

Turkey will hold nationwide elections to choose local representatives for the country’s cities and districts on March 31, 2019. The Supreme Election Board (YSK) published the decision in the Official Gazette on Friday.

Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) and opposition groups will start campaigning for elections as the country enters a period of low or negative economic growth following a currency crisis earlier this year.

Turks will elect more than 20,000 officials, including mayors and district council members, in 30 large metropolitan areas.

The local elections in 2014, which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP won in the aftermath of a corruption scandal and nationwide democracy protests, were marred by allegations of fraud and vote-rigging, with the controversy centered on Ankara, where the Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate unsuccessfully demanded a recount after transformers cut power in the middle of voting. Police dispersed thousands of protesters at YSK headquarters in Ankara with water cannons and gas.

In 2016, the government ordered the seizure of two dozen municipalities in the mainly Kurdish Southeast of the country, replacing elected mayors for alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Selahattin Demirtaş, the former head of the HDP has been in jail since late 2016 for his alleged support of the PKK.

In addition to jailed or prosecuted HDP mayors, 95 mayors from the Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP) out of 102 in total were dismissed by the government, and most of them were prosecuted.

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