Turkey orders arrest of pro-Kurdish party leader

A Turkish prosecutor on Friday ordered the arrest of 17 people including the co-leader of the pro-Kurdish opposition party over criticising the military’s offensive in Syria.

Some 600 people have been detained for protests or for social media posts against Turkey’s incursion into northwest Syria’s Afrin region since it was launched on Jan. 20.

Ankara prosecutor’s office said the 17 suspects now facing arrest were accused of “seeking to stir up street protests and clashes under the guise of opposition to the Afrin offensive”, Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu (AA) reported.

Among them were Serpil Kemalbay, the co-leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), AA said.

Kemalbay and others made statements against the operation during the party’s women conference last week, it said.

The HDP is the second-largest opposition party in the Turkish parliament, and the only major political party to oppose the military offensive against the Kurdish YPG militia in Afrin.

Ankara considers YPG to be an offshoot of the Kurdish insurgency in Turkey, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which fought for an autonomy in southeast Turkey since 1984.

The HDP is scheduled to hold its annual congress in Ankara on Sunday, with its other co-leader, Selahattin Demirtas, having been in prison since November 2016.

Turkish authorities accuse the HDP of links to Kurdish militants, and many lawmakers and mayors from the party have been imprisoned on similar charges.


Turkish police also detained at least 29 delegates of the HDP on Friday in advance of the pro-Kurdish party’s congress, including the entire delegation from Kocaeli province, leaving their attendance at the congress in Ankara in question.