Lawyers and journalists detained ahead of Türkiye’s presidential election

Lawyers and journalists detained ahead of Türkiye’s presidential election

At least 126 people with alleged links to the banned Kurdish militant Turkish Workers Party (PKK) have been detained in Türkiye ahead of the May 14 presidential and parliamentary elections.

The Turkish authorities said those seized in 21 provinces, including in Diyarbakir in the southeast, which has a Kurdish majority, were suspected of financing or recruiting for the PKK.

The PKK declared war against the Turkish state in 1984.

The main pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) said the detention of lawyers, human rights activists, campaign managers, journalists and politicians was intended to affect the vote.

Turkey’s second-largest opposition party said lawyers could scrutinise election security and independent journalists could expose voter fraud.

Tayip Temel, the HDP’s deputy, linked the detentions with Erdogan’s campaign for a third term.

“On the eve of the election, the government has resorted once again to detentions out of fear of losing power,” Temel tweeted.

Temel was targeted during the raids.

The Anadolu news agency said the raids were linked to protests and child abductions, and resulted from public prosecutors in Diyarbakir.

The Media and Law Studies Association, a Turkish non-profit organisation, said NGO leaders reported nighttime searches of their homes during the raids.

Thousands of HDP members in recent years have been jailed, including former joint leader Selahattin Demirtas after various cases tied to threatening officials and insulting the president.

In 2019, numerous HDP mayors were dismissed on “terror charges”.

Six opposition parties have united behind Kemal Kilicdaroglu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) to challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been in power for more than 20 years. The HDP has not joined the coalition, which shares little other than an antipathy to the strongman rule of Erdogan, but has backed Kilicdaroglu’s campaign. It is not fielding a candidate in the presidential race.

Kilicdaroglu claims Erdogan is targeting millions of Turkish Kurds as potential terrorists to bolster his nationalist, populist base.

Polling gives Kilicdaroglu a slight lead over Erdogan. If no candidate wins over 50 per cent of votes, which is highly likely, a runoff will be held on May 28.

Erdogan has changed the largely ceremonial role of president into an all-powerful head of state with the ability to appoint judges and declare a state of emergency and rule by decree.

Diyarbakir. Picture credit: YouTube

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