ISTANBUL (Combined Sources)-Turkish military authorities Tuesday arrested the leader of the country’s Democratic Society Party (DTP) saying he had illegally avoided military service. The arrest capped weeks of attempts to shut down the pro-Kurdish party.
Military authorities detained the leader, Nurettin Demirtas, in the airport in Ankara as he arrived from Germany late Monday. He was formally arrested later and is being held in a military jail in Ankara, Turkish officials said.
The party he leads is the only pro-Kurdish party in Turkey. Turkish authorities have shut down more than three of its predecessor parties.
Police authorities had opened a case against Demirtas and many others for illegal avoidance of military service months ago. But the military has taken it over, and some of Demirtas’s supporters saw politics in the timing.
"This arrest is just another way to interfere in politics, especially now that there’s a closure case against the party," said Hasip Kaplan, a member of the party, and of Parliament. "It’s part of the part of the psychological attack against D.T.P. that’s been happening for some time."
"The leader of an opposition party should not be subject to this treatment." Osman Baydemir, DTP mayor in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, told reporters. "He must be released immediately. In democratic terms it is unacceptable."
Demirtas’ arrest came as Turkish and Iraqi officials said Turkish troops crossed into northern Iraq overnight in a small-scale raid against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), to whom prosecutors say the DTP is linked.
Strains re-emerged in October, when PKK members ambushed Turkish troops. The next month, Turkish authorities began an investigation of the DTP party, questioning the relations between its members and the outlawed PKK.
The DTP, which holds 20 seats in the 550-member parliament, advocates a peaceful settlement to the Kurdish conflict and broader cultural and political rights for the Kurdish community. But its refusal to fall in line with Ankara and brand the Kurdistan Workers’ Party as a terrorist group and the sympathy some of its members often voice for the Kurdish cause have sparked accusations that the party is a political tool of the PKK.
Turkey has long oppressed its sizable Kurdish minority. Although conditions for Kurds have somewhat improved in recent years, a deep suspicion lingers.