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Turkish police raids

December 24, 2009

Turkish police arrested more than 30 members of a Kurdish political party that was outlawed earlier this month. Those detained on the grounds of links with a militant group included local mayors.

Hands in handcuffs
Authorities say that 43 people were arrested in the raidsImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Anti-terrorism squads in Turkey conducted raids in 11 cities, arresting 43 campaigners and members of the Democratic Society Party (DTP), said aides of the chief state prosecutor in the south-eastern city of Diyarbakir.

Among those arrested in the early-morning operation were several prominent politicians, including at least seven local mayors, and two-human rights activists.

According to some accounts from Kurdish sources, the number arrested was between 60 and 80.

Turkish riot police clash with Kurdish demonstrators in Diyarbakir, south-eastern Turkey, this month
There was unrest when the DTP was banned early in DecemberImage: dpa

Turkey's constitutional court banned the DTP on December 11 on the grounds of links with the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known as the PKK. The PKK is a separatist militant group, which is regarded by the European Union as a terrorist organization.

Among those held in Diyarbakir was a lawyer for the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Raids across country

The raids took place in cities across the southeast of the country as well as in Istanbul and the capital, Ankara. The ban on the DTP, which led to days of unrest in Kurdish areas of Turkey, was opposed by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan had been trying to resolve a conflict that has cost around 40,000 lives over the past 25 years. Kurds make up about 20 percent of Turkey's 71 million population, and were forbidden from using their language for decades.

Following the raids, around 1,000 people gathered outside the Diyarbakir office of the Peace and Democratic Party (BDP), which also represents Kurds.

Warning to government

City mayor Osman Baydemir spoke to the crowd and warned the national government that, if the detentions continued, it would have no-one to negotiate with.

"If this process of purges continues, I state it very obviously: A day will come when you will find no-one to shake hands with," said Baydemir.

The European Commission has condemned the banning of the DTP, while also criticizing the party for retaining links with the PKK. Turkey is involved in negotiations to join the European Union but has been criticized for its human rights record.

Legislators from the DTP announced last Friday that they would join the BDP to stay in parliament.

Editor: Chuck Penfold