02/15/2017, 11.16

Ankara, continues purges: 600 activists and pro-Kurdish politicians arrested

Several political activists arrested accused of alleged links to the PKK, which Ankara considers a terrorist group. Mayors of towns with a Kurdish majority relieved of their duties. HDP leaders: arrests aim to weaken the opposition ahead of the referendum on the presidential system.

Istanbul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - In the last two days the Turkish security forces have arrested at least 600 people, including several political activists, for alleged links with an outlawed Kurdish group.

Another crackdown on dissidents and opponents, as the country prepares for the constitutional referendum [in April] on the transition to the presidential system and the further strengthening of the powers for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

According to leaders of the People’s Democratic Party (the pro-Kurdish movement HDP), the arrests aim to further weaken the opposition ahead of the referendum. Half the people detained are HDP members, bringing the total arrests in the ranks of the party - in recent months - to over 5 thousand.

Along with many Kurdish leaders, the Turkish authorities have arrested or dismissed mayors of towns with a Kurdish majority, concentrated mainly in the south-east of the country.

In a statement HDP leaders - among the staunchest opponents of the constitutional reform - stress that "we will never bow down in the face of this pressure and persecution." "What they are trying to prevent - the statement continues - through detentions and arrests is a 'no' (in the referendum)".

A government source says that behind the arrests are suspected links between the HDP members and representatives of the Workers Party of Kurdistan (PKK), considered a terrorist organization and banned by Ankara. In over 30 years of conflict the leaders of the Kurdish movement have perpetrated a series of bloody attacks across the country.

In the last elections in 2015 the Kurdish HDP party won more than 10% of the vote and the possibility to enter Parliament; until a few months ago it was the second political opposition force in the country, but today it has been decimated by arrests and expulsions.

In the aftermath of the failed coup d’État in Turkey last July, President Erdogan and the Turkish government have launched a campaign of repression against its alleged perpetrators. These include supporters of Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, believed to have masterminded the coup that left 270 people dead, and thousands wounded.

In response to the failed coup, in recent months the Turkish authorities have arrested more than 41 thousand people, including teachers, soldiers, intellectuals, opposition politicians, businessmen, journalists, activists and ordinary citizens. About 100 thousand public sector officials have been suspended or laid off.

West and pro human rights activists groups renew the alert for the purges taking place in the country, in violation of human rights of citizens. The widespread opinion is that the authorities exploit the state of emergency - and the recent wave of attacks - to eliminate any voice of dissent and opposition to the president. In this context, the country is going through an institutional change that will transform the nation from the presidential parliamentary republic, with further expansion of Erdogan's powers.

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