Diyarbakir (AFP): Turkish police clashed with protesters in Diyarbakir on Wednesday, using tear gas and water cannon to prevent them demonstrating against the detention of the Kurdish-majority city’s co-mayors.
Gultan Kisanak and Firat Anli were taken into custody on Tuesday night in a surprise move against the leaders of a city which has been hit by the renewed fighting between Turkish security forces and members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The two were detained as part of a “terrorism” probe, security officials said. The Diyarbakir prosecutor said in a statement that Kisanak and Anli were accused of having links to the PKK and “inciting violence”.
Hundreds of protesters tried to march to the town hall in Diyarbakir, the largest city in Kurdish-majority southeastern Turkey, some throwing rocks at police, an AFP correspondent said.
– ‘No to intimidation’ –
Officers responded using batons, tear gas and water cannon to repel the protesters, the correspondent said.
“The pressure will not intimidate us,” demonstrators chanted.
The Diyarbakir governor’s office had warned that any planned demonstrations on Wednesday were “unlawful” and would not be allowed, saying that since August 15, public gatherings and meetings were banned in the city.
Other rallies were planned elsewhere in Turkey including Istanbul.
The prosecutor said Kisanak was accused of being a member of the PKK, while both individuals had made speeches in support of the rebel group.
They are also alleged to have allowed the use of municipal vehicles for the “funerals of terrorist members”, the prosecutor added, referring to the PKK.
The PKK is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey as well as the European Union and United States.
More than 40,000 people have been killed since it first launched an insurgency in the southeast in 1984.
A two-and-a-half-year ceasefire collapsed last July which led to almost daily attacks by the PKK against security forces while Ankara launched military operations in the southeast to rid urban areas of fighters.
Last month, 24 mayors suspected of links to the PKK were suspended and replaced with officials close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) co-founded by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.