Turkish police clash with protesters in Diyarbakir over mayors’ arrest
Turkish anti-riot police officers push back protesters with their shields on October 26, 2016 during a demonstration against the detention of the Kurdish-majority city's co-mayors in Diyarbakir. (AFP/Ilyas Akengin)
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Police in Diyarbakir, Turkey's largest city in the southeast, have clashed with protesters during a demonstration against the detention of the co-mayors of the Kurdish-majority city.
The police used tear gas and water cannon to prevent the protest on Wednesday against the arrest of Gultan Kisanak and Firat Anli. The two mayors were arrested overnight on suspicion of having links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and have also been accused of "inciting violence."
The protesters responded by throwing rocks. They also attempted to march on the town hall. Most of them were undeterred by the heavy police presence as they chanted, "The pressure will not intimidate us."
Security officials said more than two dozen people were detained. Internet services were also down.
Diyarbakir governor's office repeated calls on the people to respect a curfew that has been in place since August 15. The office said gatherings such as the one on Wednesday were "unlawful."
Meanwhile, Turkey's pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party, also known as the HDP, said the detention of the mayors was "extremely unlawful and arbitrary."
For more than a year, Diyarbakir and other towns and villages in southeastern Turkey have been subject to a large-scale government crackdown with the military claiming that it has killed or arrested thousands of PKK members. Human rights campaigners and pro-Kurdish parties have challenged the official narrative, saying most of those affected by the crackdown have been civilians.
The Turkish government began the crackdown on the PKK in July 2015. Ankara said at the time that a two-and-a-half-year ceasefire had effectively collapsed after the militant group allegedly killed dozens of civilians in a village near the border with Syria.
The arrest of Kisanak and Anli is the first major case involving Kurdish officials. Diyarbakir’s prosecutors said the mayors had allegedly allowed the use of municipal vehicles for the funeral of PKK members.
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