Dozens detained in pre-election operation against PKK affiliate in southeastern Turkey
More than 40 people allegedly linked to a group affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) were detained in sweeping dawn raids in Turkey's southeastern province of Şırnak on Wednesday, in an operation a pro-Kurdish politician described as a "provocation" ahead of Sunday's parliamentary election.
Backed by armored vehicles and special operations teams, police officers wearing ski masks and using sledgehammers and metal shields detained 47 people in an operation against the Patriotic Revolutionist Youth Movement (YDG-H) on Wednesday, the Turkish media reported.
According to the Cihan news agency report, detention orders were issued for a total of 80 people.
The operation came just days before a key parliamentary election on Sunday. Cihan said a number of people detained on Wednesday had been assigned by the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) to work as polling clerks.
The mass detentions in Şırnak also came just one day before a large-scale election rally to be held by the HDP in the province on Thursday.
The Doğan news agency quoted unnamed officials as saying that the operation targeted people who have a history of involvement in violent street protests and are suspected to be preparing for disrupting activities on the election day. Some of the suspects managed to escape during the operation, officials said.
Hasip Kaplan, an HDP deputy for Şırnak, blamed the AK Party co-founded by Erdoğan for the raids in Şırnak, an HDP stronghold. "This operation, brought about by the AKP government three days before the election, is in a word a 'provocation'," he told Reuters. "But the people will not be stirred up. We will thwart this provocation with our rally tomorrow."
The HDP is hoping to pass a 10-percent election threshold to enter Parliament, a development that could deprive the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) of a parliamentary majority strong enough to pass constitutional amendments on its own.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been pressing for constitutional changes to allow transition from the current parliamentary system into a presidential one that would significantly expand his executive powers. The HDP has promised to block Erdoğan's aspirations to institute this presidential system.