A Turkish court has charged 23 Kurdish officials, including eight mayors, for links with Kurdish separatists, a judicial source said today. The court in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated south-east, charged the suspects overnight, the source said. They are among 31 people who were detained on Thursday in a sweeping dawn operation spread over 11 provinces as part of a probe against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its offshoots in urban centres.
It was the third such operation this year. More than 100 people have already been charged in the investigation led by the chief prosecutor's office in Diyarbakir. The eight mayors charged used to be members of the now-defunct Democratic Society Party (DTP). The DTP was banned by Turkey's top court two weeks ago on the ground that it was linked to the PKK, a verdict that sparked violent Kurdish protests across the south-east that claimed two lives.
Following the ban on the DTP, party members have joined the Peace and Democracy Party, a recently founded Kurdish party. The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, took up arms for Kurdish self-rule in the south-east in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives. Since August, the Ankara government has been working on a plan to expand Kurdish freedoms in the hope of ending the PKK's deadly campaign.