Turkey detains 110 pro-Kurdish suspects ahead of vote

Turkey detains 110 pro-Kurdish suspects ahead of vote
Pedestrians walk past billboards showing the portrait of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and a slogan reading "For Turkey's century; the right time, the right man"/ AFP


Turkey on Tuesday detained at least 110 pro-Kurdish activists, journalists and lawyers in raids conducted just three weeks before a knife-edge vote that could extend President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's two-decade rule.

Police said their "counter-terror" operation was conducted simultaneously in 21 provinces, including Diyarbakir, the Kurdish minority's unofficial capital in Turkey.

State media said police held people suspected of financing the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) or roping new members into the outlawed group.

The PKK has been proscribed as a terrorist organisation by Ankara and its Western allies for waging a decades-long armed struggle for greater autonomy in Turkey's southeast.

The Anadolu state news agency said the detained included people suspected of fomenting nearly 60 street protests since 2017.

The operation also involved suspects who allegedly transferred money to the PKK from municipalities held by the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP).

The Diyarbakir bar association said the number of detentions could be as high as 150.

These include "20 lawyers, five journalist and three theatre actors," it said.

Turkey's MLSA human rights organisation said the journalists worked for the pro-Kurdish Mesopotamia News Agency, which has been banned in Turkey over its alleged terror links.

The raids were believed to be the largest since 108 suspects were arrested in a similar operation in 2020.


- 'Steal the ballot box' -


The arrests are likely to add pressure on the HDP ahead of the May 14 election, widely viewed as the most important in Turkey's post-Ottoman era.

Turkey's top court is winding down hearings against the HDP that could see it banned over alleged terror ties.

Prosecutors are zeroing in on alleged financial support the PKK receives from the HDP, which Erdogan casts as the militants' political wing.

The leftist party says it being singled out for standing up to Erdogan's crackdown on civil liberties and mishandling of the economy.

The HDP called Tuesday's raids an "operation to steal the ballot box and the will of the people".

It accused Erdogan's ruling party of targeting "lawyers who will protect the ballot box and journalists who will inform the public" about government attempts to manipulate the vote.

Polls show Erdogan running neck-and-neck or losing to joint opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu

Erdogan's control of parliament through an alliance between his Islamic-rooted party and a far-right group is also under threat.

The HDP will not field a presidential candidate in the election or run under its own party banner in the parliamentary portion of the vote.

It will instead field its parliamentary candidates under the lists of a new group called the Green Left Party, which supports Kilicdaroglu.

The measures are designed to shield the party in case it is banned before the vote.

The supreme court has the option of either banning the HDP or barring some 550 of its top members from politics for five years.