Turkish police detained four mayors from a pro-Kurdish party in dawn raids, widening a crackdown since Ankara launched an incursion into northern Syria a week ago, state media and the party said on Tuesday.
The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) mayors of the Kurdish-majority Hakkari, Yuksekova, Ercis and Nusaybin, districts near Turkey’s borders with Syria and Iraq, were detained over terrorism links, the HDP and Anadolu news agency said, without elaborating.
President Tayyip Erdogan and his government accuse the HDP of being linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group, and thousands of its members have been prosecuted for the same reason, including its leaders. The HDP denies such links.
While most of Turkey’s opposition parties have backed the operation, the HDP has called for it to stop, describing it as an “invasion attempt”. HDP says the operation was an attempt by the government to drum up support amid declining public backing.
The HDP said 151 of its members, including district officials, had been detained over the past week since Turkey and its Syrian rebel allies launched the assault.
Last week, Turkish police launched criminal investigations into the HDP’s co-chairs over their criticism of the military operation and started probes into more than 500 social accounts over “terrorist propaganda” criticising the offensive.
Authorities launched similar investigations after each of Turkey’s two previous cross-border operations into Syria. More than 300 people were detained for social media posts criticising Turkey’s offensive into northern Syria in January 2018.
More than 275,000 people have been displaced because of the latest Turkish offensive that began last week in northeast Syria, the region’s Kurdish-led authority said on Tuesday.
That number includes more than 70,000 children, it added in a statement.