Turkey Replaces 3 Pro-Kurdish Party Mayors, Detains Hundreds over PKK Links
Turkey replaced on Monday three mayors from office over alleged links to a Kurdish party and detained more than 400 people for suspected links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The mayors of Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van provinces in eastern Turkey -- all members of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) elected in March -- were suspended.
They were accused of various crimes including membership of a terrorist organization and spreading terrorist group propaganda, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
“For the health of the investigations, they have been temporarily removed from their posts as a precaution,” it added, referring to Diyarbakir Mayor Selcuk Mizrakli, Mardin Mayor Ahmet Turk and Van Mayor Bedia Ozgokce Ertan.
CNN Turk showed police sealing off the municipality headquarters in Diyarbakir with metal barriers, with water cannon vehicles and riot police deployed outside.
The Interior Ministry said on Twitter that police detained 418 people in 29 provinces in an investigation targeting suspects with links to the PKK.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly claimed that the HDP has ties to the PKK, which has fought a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state for much of the past 35 years.
The HDP denies any links to the PKK, but has tried to broker peace talks between the insurgents and the government.
Hundreds of HDP members and around 40 of its mayors are currently in detention.
The former head of the party, Selahattin Demirtas, has been in prison since November 2016 -- a case that has been criticized by the European Court of Human Rights.
The government launched a crackdown on opposition politicians following a failed coup in July 2016.
Although the coup was not directly linked to the Kurdish issue, the crackdown saw 95 of 102 pro-Kurdish mayors removed from their posts and replaced with central government appointees.
The PKK launched an insurgency in 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.