Several pro-Kurdish party members, including mayor, arrested in eastern Turkey

(Updates with PACE statement)

Turkish authorities have arrested 19 pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) members over terrorism charges in an operation in Turkey's eastern province of Kars on Thursday, Duvar news website said.

The HDP's co-mayor of Kars, Şevin Alaca, deputy mayors, the party's provincial chief and members of the provincial assembly were arrested, Duvar said.

Turkish authorities dismissed Alaca and six members of the provincial assembly of the party for being a member o a terrorist organisation hours after the arrests, Rudaw said.

On Sept. 25, Turkish authorities have issued arrest warrants for 82 people, including a mayor and several former lawmakers from the HDP, who are accused of involvement in protests that left 37 dead.

The warrants relate to October 2014 protests in Turkey sparked by the seizure of the mainly Kurdish-Syrian town of Kobane by Islamic State fighters.

There was also a warrant for the other co-mayor of Kars, Ayhan Bilgen.

Bilgen won local elections in the city in 2019 representing the HDP, and of a total of 65 HDP mayors returned in those elections, 47 have now been replaced by unelected officials, with some detained on terror charges.

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Turkey condemned the arrest of HDP politicians and said they raised serious concerns.

“We are greatly concerned by the detention warrants issued against 101 members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on 25 September and 1st October 2020, notably for their alleged responsibility in the 2014 ‘Kobane protests’” co-rapporteurs Thomas Hammarberg and John Howell said.

“Prominent party members and elected representatives, including the co-Mayors of Kars Ayhan Bilgen and Şevin Alaca, former PACE member Nazmi Gür and former deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder, were arrested on grounds that raise serious questions," they said.

The arrests of pro-Kurdish party members "diminish, obstruct or undermine the ability of opposition politicians to exercise their rights and fulfil their democratic roles, both inside and outside parliament, and could render opposition parties inoperative", they added.

“Political opposition is an essential component of a well-functioning and vivid democracy. We therefore call on the Turkish authorities to immediately release the detained political elected representatives and party members, to protect and respect parliamentary immunity, to fully implement the European Court of Human Rights’ rulings and to release former HDP co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş.”

The Turkish government has accused the HDP of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). A 2018 report showed that almost one-third of the HDP’s members had been detained since a peace process between Turkey and the PKK collapsed in 2015.

Human rights groups say the government uses vague and spurious allegations of terrorism in order to remove or imprison democratically elected HDP mayors.