Turkey jails Kurdish party co-leaders

Turkey jails Kurdish party co-leaders
Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag are formally arrested and detained pending trial.
2 min read
04 November, 2016
Demonstration protesting against the Turkish government's policy took place [Getty]

Turkey on Friday jailed the two co-leaders of the country's main pro-Kurdish party and several other MPs, in an unprecedented crackdown.

A court in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir remanded in custody ahead of trial Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag after they were detained along with 10 of its MPs.

The United States and European Union both raised alarm over the arrests, which marked a new escalation of the clampdown under the state of emergency imposed in the wake of the July 15 coup.

With tensions again escalating in Turkey nearly four months after July's failed coup, authorities slapped restrictions on social media including messaging services like WhatsApp.

Read more here: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and WhatsApp shutdown in Turkey

The arrest of the HDP leaders marks a new stage in the crackdown on leading pro-Kurdish politicians as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seeks to destroy the PKK.

Demirtas has been charged with "membership of an armed group" – a reference to the PKK – while Yuksekdag is charged with making "terror propaganda" for the group.

The HDP said in a statement that the goal of the measures was to shut down the party, but it vowed not to surrender to these "dictatorial policies".

"It means the end of democracy in Turkey," the party said.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Twitter she was "extremely worried" over the detentions and would call a meeting of EU ambassadors in Ankara.

Read more here: EU 'extremely worried' over Turkey's arrest of Kurdish MPs

US Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski said on Twitter Washington was "deeply troubled that government of Turkey has detained HDP leaders and other MPs while blocking Internet access".

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier summoned Turkey's envoy to the foreign ministry in Berlin, a ministry source said, adding Germany "could not remain silent."

Demirtas was detained at his home in Diyarbakir in the early hours while Yuksekdag was detained in Ankara. Yuksekdag was then brought to Diyarbakir, where the investigation is centred.

The pair had been targeted by several separate probes over the last months but this is the first time that either has been detained.

A total of 12 HDP MPs were rounded up overnight.

As as well as Demirtas and Yuksekdag, the head of the HDP's parliamentary faction Idris Baluken and MPs Leyla Birlik, Nursel Aydogan and Gulser Yildirim were also placed under arrest by the courts.

However lawmakers Ziya Pir, Imam Tascier and Sirri Sureyya Onder were allowed to go free under judicial control – the Turkish equivalent of bail.