Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 October 2019

Turkish police fire water cannon at protesters

Kurdish leaders in Turkey placed under criminal investigation after being accused of criticising Ankara’s military operation in Syria

Police in Diyarbakir use a water cannon to disperse pro-Kurdish demonstrators. Reuters
Police in Diyarbakir use a water cannon to disperse pro-Kurdish demonstrators. Reuters

Turkish police have launched criminal investigations into Kurdish leaders in the country and detained scores of people, accusing them of criticising the military's incursion into Syria on social media.

Police fired water cannon and detained dozens of activists in the mainly Kurdish south-eastern city of Diyarbakir on Thursday at a protest against the cross-border assault.

Turkey pounded the Kurdish YPG militia in north-east Syria for a second day on Thursday, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee and killing dozens.

Ankara considers the YPG to be a terrorist group over its links to militants who have waged an insurgency in Turkey.

The rally was in front of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) headquarters in Diyarbakir, the biggest city in the south-east.

A party official said police detained 25 members there, including its Diyarbakir provincial leader.

Earlier on Thursday, authorities began investigating HDP leaders and detained 21 people for criticising the military offensive, the state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.

While most of Turkey's opposition parties have backed the operation, the HDP called for the offensive to stop, calling it an "invasion attempt".

HDP co-leader Sezai Temelli said on Wednesday that the operation was an attempt by the government to drum up support amid declining public backing.

Prosecutors launched an investigation against him and the HDP's other leader, Pervin Buldan, Anadolu said.

Mr Temelli and Mr Buldan were accused of "carrying out propaganda for a terrorist organisation" and "openly insulting Turkey's government".

Three other HDP politicians were being investigated for similar offences, the news agency said.

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The government accuses the HDP of ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group and thousands of its members have been prosecuted. The HDP denies such links.

Hours after the operation started on Wednesday evening, authorities launched investigations against 78 people for criticising it on social media.

On Thursday, 21 people were detained in the southern province of Mardin for social media posts. The suspects are accused of "provoking the public to hatred and animosity" and "carrying out propaganda for a terrorist organisation".

Late on Thursday, police detained another 11 people linked to the HDP who were protesting in central Ankara.

Authorities launched similar investigations after each of Turkey's two previous cross-border operations in Syria.

More than 300 people were detained for social media posts criticising Turkey's offensive into northern Syria in January 2018.

Updated: October 11, 2019 01:19 AM

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