Turkish police on Friday detained dozens of pro-Kurdish party officials and a prominent human rights activist, as prosecutors step up pressure on the country’s third-largest party.
A top public prosecutor on Wednesday demanded the dissolution of the leftist opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) over alleged links to Kurdish militants.
The move followed the expulsion of a HDP lawmaker from parliament on the same day.
The HDP said at least 36 party members were detained, including 10 in Istanbul among which were three HDP district chairs, over suspected Kurdish militant links.
Police were on the hunt for five others, state news agency Anadolu reported.
Ozturk Turkdogan, head of the Ankara-based Human Rights Association (IHD), was also detained on Friday in the capital and his house was raided, the organization said.
“Our lawyers are trying to obtain information about this case. His arrest is a blatant human rights violation. He must be released now,” the IHD tweeted.
After the Ankara chief public prosecutor issued 12 arrest warrants for suspects over their alleged ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), 10 were detained.
The Turkish government says the HDP is the political front for the PKK, which the party denies.
The PKK is blacklisted as a terrorist organization by Ankara and its Western allies, and has waged an insurgency against the Kurdish state since 1984.
Police also detained 15 suspects accused of making social media propaganda for the PKK in the southern province of Adana.
The private DHA news agency reported 15 current and former HDP executives were also detained in the northwestern province of Kocaeli, and the party itself said one of its officials was detained in the central province of Eskisehir.
The indictment to dissolve the HDP put before the Constitutional Court seeks to ban 687 party members from engaging in politics for five years.
The court took the first step on Friday with the appointment of a rapporteur to conduct the investigation and prepare a report for the court’s 15 judges.
It is the latest in a series of crackdowns on the HDP since 2016 during which a majority of its elected mayors have been dismissed and replaced by government-appointed trustees.
Philippe Dam of Human Rights Watch (HRW) described the IHD chief’s detention as “outrageous” in a tweet.
Dam also asked whether European Union chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel would raise the detention and other human rights issues in a video call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expected at 1215 GMT.
Government critics and rights activists noted the latest legal assault on the party began a little more than two weeks after Erdogan unveiled a human rights “action plan”.
“Seems the Human Rights Action Plan has become a human rights violation plan,” Emma Sinclair-Webb of HRW tweeted.