Turkish law enforcement officers detained six pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) mayors and one town council member on terror charges on Tuesday, Mezopotamya News Agency reported.
Police carried out raids into residences of Cihan Karaman, mayor of the southeastern Kurdish-majority Hakkari province and 5 district co-mayors, reportedly arresting them over links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a pro-Kurdish secessionist militant group designated as a terrorist organization by Ankara.
This comes after the arrests of nine HDP officials, including two district co-chairs, over staging a march and chant slogans protesting Turkey’s recently-launched military offensive in northeastern Syria, on Monday.
Pervin Buldan, the co-chair of HDP, denounced the raids while speaking at her party’s caucus on Tuesday. “These raids are insults to Kurds. These acts are a repudiation of Kurds,” said Buldan.
Ankara last week started its long-threatened military operation with the reported aim of carving out a large “safe zone” across northeastern Syria and resettle in their homeland the millions of Syrian refugees Turkey currently hosts.
The HDP officials were on Sunday detained following a press meeting in the pro-Kurdish party’s building in Besiktas district of Istanbul, where they expressed their criticism of Turkey’s incursion into Syria.
HDP Co-chair Sezai Temelli, as well as some party officials and MPs from Istanbul, were in attendance at the press meeting that took place on the 7th anniversary of the formation of the pro-Kurdish party.
The detentions were carried out while the officials were attempting to hold a march and chant anti-war slogans, in the aftermath of the meeting, to protest the Turkish offensive in Syria.
The pro-Kurdish officials were then sent to the Istanbul 1st Heavy Penal Court, where they were arrested on charges of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “violating the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations” on Monday.
Among the arrested are HDP’s Kucukcekmece district branch Co-chair Huseyin Fidanboy and Sisli district branch Co-chair Mutlu Ozturk.
According to Evrensel, the Istanbul court considered the slogan “No to war, peace immediately” chanted by the pro-Kurdish officials as terrorist propaganda.
The Turkish military operation in northeast Syria targets the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, which has served as an important ally to the United States in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in the region.
Ankara designates YPG a terrorist organization due to its links to the outlawed PKK.
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government accuses the pro-Kurdish HDP, the only political party having seats in the parliament that does not approve the incursion into Syria, of having links to the PKK militants.