Turkish police detained more than 120 people across Turkey on Tuesday as part of an investigation into alleged links between Kurdish activists and PKK militants, security officials said.
Hundreds of people, including elected mayors, are already on trial on charges of ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group, as part of a two-year old case which has fuelled tensions in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey.
A surge in PKK violence in recent months has sparked Turkish military air and artillery strikes against PKK hideouts in the mountains of neighbouring northern Iraq.
Police staged simultaneous dawn raids in Istanbul and southeastern provinces, including the main regional city of Diyarbakir, where 40 people were detained, including a deputy leader of the main Kurdish political party and several mayors.
Another 80 people were detained in Turkey’s largest city Istanbul, the sources said. Istanbul police declined to comment.
Media reports said about 20 people were also detained in the southeastern province of Gaziantep, including the local head of the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).
The investigation is focused on an organisation called the Union of Kurdistan Communities (KCK), which the PKK established in 2005 with the aim of creating its own Kurdish political system, according to a 2009 indictment.
Some 150 politicians and activists are being tried in Diyarbakir where a large courtroom has been specially built. Similar trials are being held in other cities across Turkey.
Deputies from the BDP party swore their parliamentary oaths at the start of the legislative term at the weekend, ending a boycott triggered by court rulings barring some of its elected candidates, jailed in the KCK cases, from taking their seats.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party government, fresh from a third parliamentary election victory in June, aims to achieve cross-party consensus for a new constitution to replace one drafted after a military coup in 1980.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict between the PKK and the state since the militants launched their armed insurgency in 1984.
04 October 2011 Tuesday