The two joint leaders of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP) have been detained along with at least 11 MPs because of their reluctance to give testimony for crimes linked to “terrorist propaganda”.
Turkish police raided the Ankara home of co-leader Selahattin Demirtas and the house of co-leader Figen Yuksekdag in Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish south-east, early on Friday, the party’s lawyers told Reuters.
At least 11 other HDP parliamentarians were also detained, lawyers said, in a major escalation of the government’s crackdown on its opponents in the wake of the failed coup on 15 July. Raids also took place in the south-eastern cities of Van and Bingol.
Demirtas – a charismatic leader dubbed the “Kurdish Obama” by some admirers – and Yuksekdag had been targeted by several separate probes over the last months but this is the first time that either has been detained.
Others detained included the prominent MP, Sirri Surreya Onder, who in the past has been a pointman for contacts with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. The head of the HDP’s faction in the Turkish parliament, Idris Baluken, was also held.
HDP is the third largest party in the 550-seat Turkish parliament, with 59 seats. Parliamentarians in Turkey normally enjoy immunity from prosecution, but the pro-Kurdish party’s immunity was lifted earlier this year.
Turkey accuses the HDP of links to the Kurdish militant group PKK, which is deemed a terrorist organisation by the United States, the European Union and Turkey.