Turkish police detain over 100 pro-Kurdish activists, lawyers, politicians ahead of elections

Turkish police have detained 126 Kurdish lawyers, activists, politicians and journalists ahead of the May 14 elections. The operations took place in 21 provinces including the Kurdish-majority Diyarbakır, with authorities accusing the detainees of "terrorism ties," a common rhetoric used by the ruling AKP to attract nationalist votes.

Duvar English - Reuters

Turkish police on April 25 detained 126 politicians, lawyers, activists and journalists ahead of elections scheduled for May 14. 

The operation was centered in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır and spread across 21 provinces. The detainees were accused of links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The operation came less than three weeks before presidential and parliamentary votes that represent the biggest electoral challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has faced since his Justice and Development Party (AKP) first came to power in 2002.

Jailed former Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş slammed the detentions on his Twitter account, saying that Interior Süleyman Soylu was behind the detentions. "They will not be able to stop the peace, welfare, democracy from coming," he wrote. 

"On the eve of the election, out of fear of losing power, they have resorted to detention operations again," HDP lawmaker Tayip Temel said on Twitter.

He said tens of politicians, including top members of his party, journalists, artists and lawyers were among those detained in Diyarbakir.

The prosecutor's office in Diyarbakir declined to comment. One security source said police carried out simultaneous raids on 186 addresses and seized some digital materials after prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 216 people.

He said the suspects were accused of providing financing, recruiting and spreading propaganda for the PKK.

Human Rights Watch Europe and Central Asia Associate Director Emma Sinclair-Webb said access to the investigation file was restricted. It was "clearly an abuse of powers and intimidation tactic before election", she said on Twitter.

The third biggest party in parliament, the HDP faces a potential ban in a constitutional court case in which it is accused of PKK connections that it denies. Its parliamentary candidates are therefore running under the umbrella of the small Green Left Party.

The HDP is not part of the main opposition alliance but is fiercely opposed to Erdoğan after a crackdown in recent years in which thousands of its members, lawmakers and mayors have been jailed or stripped of positions over alleged PKK ties.