Explosion hits Kurdish-majority city in Turkey after arrests

No fewer than 30 people have been injured on Friday in an explosion in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir shortly after legislators from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) were detained.

Residents said that the explosion occurred this morning near the provincial police headquarters in Diyarbakir and could be heard across the city.

The explosion came after 11 HDP members were detained in a series of overnight raids, including party co-chair Selahattin Demirtas who was detained at Diyarbakir.

The party’s other co-chair, Figen Yuksekdag, was taken into custody at her house in the capital Ankara.

Demirtas’ last post on Twitter said security forces “are at my door”.

Warrants were also issued for four other members of parliament.

Live videos of the police raids, carried out in the middle of the night, were posted on social media accounts, including one showing Yuksekdag verbally protesting against her detention.

The HDP quoted Demirtas, through his lawyer, as saying: “I am in good health, my morale is fine and I salute our people.”

Demirtas and Yuksekdag are accused by prosecutors in separate cases of spreading terrorist propaganda.

A government statement said the detentions came after the HDP leaders refused to appear before prosecutors to testify.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been accused of increasing authoritarianism, regularly targets the HDP, saying “it has links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)’’, a charge the HDP denies.

The HDP sees the moves against it as politically motivated.

It said that since July 2015 more than 5,000 people affiliated with it have been detained and more than 1,000 have been formally arrested, on varying charges, including terrorism-related.

Turkey has recently removed a number of elected HDP mayors from office and replaced them with trusted Ankara loyalists, with no announcement of plans for fresh elections.

The mayors of the city of Diyarbakir the HDP fill each post with a man and a woman – were arrested last week.

A peace process between the PKK and the state broke down last year leading to renewed violence which has claimed thousands of lives.

This has added to the more than 40,000 people who had already died in the 30-year war.

The government has rejected a return to negotiations.

Those detained in the late night raids included HDP leaders who were involved in the peace process.

“The arrest order for senior HDP leadership is the last nail in the coffin for any hope of peace for years to come,” tweeted Howard Eissenstat, an expert on Turkey at St Lawrence University in New York.

A statement from a local HDP-sister party in the mostly Kurdish south-east of the country called for people to protest the detentions, the Firat news agency reported.

The raids are “a coup against the will of the people that can never be accepted,” the statement said.

Since a July coup attempt by a faction in the military, Turkey has conducted sweeping crackdowns, saying it is targeting alleged followers of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based preacher accused of orchestrating the failed putsch. He denies the charges.

A state of emergency is in effect, giving the government sweeping powers to rule by decree and restricting civil rights, including detainees’ access to lawyers in the first five days after being taken into custody.

Some 35,000 people have been arrested since the coup and tens of thousands of civil servants and members of the security forces have been dismissed from their jobs.

Turkey’s vague anti-terrorism laws, often broadly applied, have been criticized by European leaders and the UN.