NOV. 4, 2016, 3:30 A.M. EDT
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — A car bomb rocked southeastern Turkey’s largest city on Friday, killing one person and injuring more than 40, security sources said, hours after police detained politicians of the mostly Kurdish region’s biggest party.
The blast struck an area near the police station where some of the party leaders were being held in a terrorism probe, the sources said. It tore off the facades of buildings and firefighters were searching debris for people trapped there.
Police raided the homes and detained the joint leaders of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the second-biggest opposition party in the national parliament, and nine other HDP lawmakers early on Friday after they refused to give testimony for crimes linked to “terrorist propaganda”.
Southeastern Turkey has been rocked by political turmoil and violence for more than a year after the collapse of a ceasefire with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group, which has waged a three-decade insurgency for Kurdish autonomy.
The lira currency hit a new record low against the dollar after the arrests, trading at 3.1319 at 0640 GMT.
President Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling AK Party accuse the HDP of links to the PKK, which is deemed a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union. The HDP denies any direct links.
The government introduced a nationwide state of emergency after a failed military coup on July 15 which gave it broad powers to round up suspects linked to the putsch. More than 110,000 civil servants, soldiers, police, judges, journalists and other officials have been suspended or detained.
The authorities have also used the emergency powers to round up pro-Kurdish opposition politicians, including Diyarbakir’s joint mayors, who were detained late last month, and has closed all major Kurdish media outlets.
The interior ministry said Friday’s detention orders were for 13 members of parliament, but two were abroad and were therefore not immediately detained.
SOCIAL MEDIA BLOCKED Police raided the Ankara house of Figen Yuksekdag, HDP co-chairwoman, and Selahattin Demirtas, the other party leader, in Diyarbakir, a party spokeswoman told Reuters.
“The HDP calls on the international community to react against the Erdogan regime’s coup,” the party said on Twitter.
A court official said the prosecutor was seeking Demirtas’ formal arrest and that both he and Yuksekdag were in court after police questioning.
Police also raided and searched the party’s head office in central Ankara. Police cars and armed vehicles had closed the entrances to the street of the HDP headquarters.
A group of protesters chanting slogans tried to reach the party offices, but were stopped by police before they could enter the street, a Reuters witness said.
“Very bad news from Turkey. Again. Now HDP members of parliament are being detained,” the European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur, Kati Piri, said on Twitter.
Following the detentions, access to social media sites Twitter and Whatsapp was blocked in Turkey, internet monitoring group Turkey Blocks said.
A U.S. internet company official, who declined to be identified, confirmed that some sites were being “throttled”, a method of slowing them to the point where they are unusable.
The HDP is the third-largest party in the 550-seat Turkish parliament, with 59 seats, and won more than 5 million votes in the November 2015 general election. Parliamentarians in Turkey normally enjoy immunity from prosecution, but the pro-Kurdish party’s immunity was lifted earlier this year.
Turkey accuses the HDP of links to the Kurdish militant group PKK, which is deemed a terrorist organisation by the United States, the European Union and Turkey.
(Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Tom Heneghan)
Turkey HDP: Blast after pro-Kurdish leaders Demirtas and Yuksekdag detained
Selahattin Demirtas (L) and Figen Yuksekdag have been detained as well as other MPs from their party. AP/REUTERS
The two co-leaders of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition party, People’s Democracy (HDP), have been detained along with at least nine other MPs.
Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag were detained at their respective homes as part of a counter-terrorism inquiry, security sources told Turkish media.
Hours after the arrest of Mr Demirtas in Diyarbakir, a suspected car bomb exploded there, injuring 20 people.
Diyarbakir, in the south-east, is Turkey’s largest Kurdish-majority city.
Ambulances could be seen rushing to the scene amid reports of at least one death as a result of the explosion, close to a police building.
Ms Yuksekdag was detained in the capital, Ankara.
Turkey remains under a state of emergency that was imposed after a failed coup in July. The emergency allows President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his cabinet to bypass parliament when drafting new laws and to restrict or suspend rights and freedoms.
The detention order for the MPs is for alleged propaganda for the PKK Kurdish militants, suspected of being behind Friday’s blast and a wave of recent attacks. The party strongly denies links to the group.
Police searched the HDP’s head offices in central Ankara as well as making the arrests.
A major escalation: analysis by Mark Lowen, BBC Turkey correspondent
Mr Demirtas and the rest of the party say this is an attempt by President Erdogan to push the party out of parliament and increase his own power.
The government says those detained had failed to respond to a summons for questioning and issued an arrest warrant for two other HDP MPs currently abroad.
This is a major escalation of a clampdown that has seen Kurdish media closed down and the mayor of Diyarbakir arrested.
Hopes of an end to Turkey’s decades-long Kurdish problem have evaporated since a ceasefire with the PKK broke down in 2015, leading to a wave of tit-for-tat attacks.
Mr Demirtas elicited international support with his liberal politics but critics say he has failed to distance the party sufficiently from the PKK. Friday’s detentions are likely to provoke more tension among Kurds – and more violence too.
The PKK is deemed a terrorist organisation by the US, the European Union and Turkey.
Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Whatsapp were reported to be inaccessible inside Turkey shortly after the detentions, even when users tried to circumvent restrictions using a virtual private network (VPN).
Mr Demirtas had tweeted about his arrest before the sites were restricted.
Another MP from the party who is currently abroad, Ertugrul Kurkcu, told the BBC that the detentions were “totally unlawful”.
He said: “This crackdown tonight is nothing to do with procedural law, criminal law, any law whatsoever or the constitution. This is an unlawful hijacking of HDP parliamentarians.
“The Turkish government is heading towards a dictatorship of Nazi style [sic]. Will the Turkish government abide by the internationally accepted standards of parliamentary democracy? This is the basic question.”
Last month, the co-mayors of Turkey’s largest Kurdish-majority city were detained, also as part of a terrorism investigation.
About 100,000 public sector employees with alleged links to the coup’s alleged mastermind were subsequently purged from their jobs.
The HDP entered the Turkish parliament for the first time last year, when it won 59 seats and became the country’s third-largest party.
Mr Demirtas has accused the ruling party of orchestrating nationalist attacks.
Turkish politicians normally have immunity from prosecution but this was removed from the HDP earlier this year.
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