ANKARA – Turkey on Friday ordered the arrest of 82 people including members of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) over violent protests in 2014 against an attack on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani.

Protesters flooded streets in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast that October, accusing the Turkish army of standing by as the Islamic State militant group besieged Kobani in plain view just across the Syrian border. The protests led to the deaths of 37 people.

Turkish authorities accuse HDP of links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and supporting the protests. The HDP, the third largest party, denies links to terrorism.

Former HDP leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag have been in jail since 2016 on charges related to the Kobani protests.

In a statement on Friday, the Ankara prosecutor’s Terror Crimes Investigation Bureau said arrest warrants had been issued over “several calls made to invite the public to the streets and carry out terror acts”.

Those detained on Friday included the mayor of the northeasterly Kars province, Ayhan Bilgen, and former lawmaker Sirri Sureyya Onder, both prominent HDP figures, as well as some party executives.

Mithat Sancar, the party’s current co-leader, said the AK Party of President Tayyip Erdogan “wants to intimidate the opposition and spread fear among the public by silencing the HDP”.

He said the HDP’s own requests that the Kobani protests be investigated had been dismissed.

Since local elections in 2019, Ankara has removed dozens of mayors belonging to the HDP, accusing them of links to terrorism, and appointed trustees in their place. Two HDP lawmakers have been ejected from parliament since elections in 2018 after being convicted on terrorism charges.

Eleven others were ejected in the previous term.

The Ankara prosecutor’s office is now preparing proceedings against seven more HDP lawmakers including MP Garo Paylan that could lead to their immunity being lifted to allow them to be charged, the state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.

Paylan said: “With the order received from the Palace, the prosecutor detained our friends. The order is to finish the HDP. HDP is a hope for freedom.

The Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament issued a statement to condemn the crackdown on HDP”.

“The detention of these people, including former members of parliament, is another step backwards pushing Turkey even further away from the EU,” former Turkey rapporteur and Dutch MEP Kati Piri said, calling for the detainees’ immediate release.

“Turkish authorities seem determined to establish some kind of overall retroactive state of emergency in order to further suppress opposition and any critical voices,” current European Parliament Rapporteur on Turkey Nacho Sánchez Amor said.

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