Diyarbakır co-mayors Gülten Kışanak and Fırat Anlı were detained on terrorism charges on Tuesday evening.
A leading politician and former deputy, Kışanak has been serving as the co-mayor of Diyarbakır, the largest city in Turkey’s mostly Kurdish Southeast, since 2014.
Kışanak was detained at Diyarbakır Airport upon her return from Ankara, where she testified to Turkey’s parliamentary Coup Investigation Commission on Tuesday. Anlı was detained at his home.
Police searched the houses of the politicians and have started to search the Diyarbakır Municipality building. Some HDP deputies gathered in front of the municipal building. “There is a large police barricade in front of the building. Police are not even allowing lawyers to enter,” said HDP Diyarbakır deputy Sibel Yiğitalp, the T24 news website reported.
Kışanak and Anlı are accused of giving speeches in support of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and of promoting more autonomy for Turkey’s Kurds, according to a statement from the Diyarbakir Prosecutor’s Office. They are also accused of transporting the bodies of dead militants in official cars and of sparking violent protests.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) reacted adversely to the detention of Kışanak and Anlı. “We condemn the detention of Diyarbakır co-mayors Gülten Kışanak and Fırat Anlı. We call for their immediate release. Our people will not accept this and will exercise our democratic right to protest,” said a Twitter message from the HDP.
The Turkish government has been expanding operations against the PKK to HDP and Democratic Regions Party (DBP) members and to municipalities run by those parties.
Trustees have been appointed to over 24 municipalities run by HDP and DBP mayors. Dozens of HDP and DBP representatives and members have been detained or arrested as part of intensified operations following a failed coup attempt on July 15.
Turkish authorities had conducted direct talks with jailed PKK chief Abdullah Öcalan for several years until a truce in effect collapsed in the summer of 2015. Since then, there have been heavy clashes between the PKK and Turkish security forces.
More than 40,000 people, including 5,500 security force members, have been killed in four decades of fighting between the Turkish state and the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.