Turkish police detained more than 120 people across Turkey on Tuesday, October 4 as part of an investigation into alleged links between Kurdish activists and separatist guerrillas, 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 guerrilla bases 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.
Twenty people were also detained in the southeastern province of Gaziantep, including the local head of the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), media reports said.
“When we got up this morning we once again faced a political genocide,” BDP joint leader Gultan Kisanak told party deputies in their first group meeting in parliament since ending a boycott of the assembly at the weekend.
“The AKP (ruling party) police have gone on a hunt for Kurds,” she said. “The people will not bow down even if 10,000 people are detained.”
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.
The European Union, which Turkey is aiming to join, is closely watching the cases and their human rights implications, Reuters reported.