ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A Turkish court ordered the pre-trial detention on Friday of 17 people, including senior pro-Kurdish opposition members, for their role in violent protests against the army’s inaction during a militant attack on the Syrian Kurdish town Kobani.
The protesters in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast accused Turkey’s army of standing by as Islamic State militants besieged Kobani in plain view just across the Syrian border in October 2014. The protests led to the deaths of 37 people.
As well as ordering the formal arrest of 17 people, the Ankara court released three other detainees subject to judicial supervision, the state news agency Anadolu reported. A party source said the same. They were among 82 people ordered detained a week ago.
Turkish authorities said the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union, incited the protests and that the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) supported them. The HDP, the third largest party, denies links to terrorism.
Also on Friday, the Interior Ministry said the mayor of northeastern province Kars, Ayhan Bilgen, who was among those remanded in custody, was removed from his position and replaced by the provincial governor.
This means the authorities have now removed all of HDP’s provincial mayors who were elected in March last year. The party now holds six town and district municipalities, compared to the 65 it won in total last year.
Bilgen had said two days ago that he would resign from his position, in an apparent effort to prevent Ankara from appointing an official in his place.
Two HDP lawmakers have been ejected from parliament since elections in 2018 after being convicted on terrorism charges. Eleven others were ejected in the previous term.
Former HDP leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag have been in jail since 2016 on charges related to the Kobani protests.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the PKK took up arms against the state in 1984.
(Reporting by Daren Butler and Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)