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 Turkey detains 40, including journalists in KCK probes, for alleged PKK rebel links

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Turkey detains 40, including journalists in KCK probes, for alleged PKK rebel links  20.12.2011  
By staff writers

December 20, 2011

DIYARBAKIR, The Kurdish region of Turkey, — Turkish police on Tuesday detained some 40 people, including a number of journalists, in operations carried out against the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), which prosecutors say is a political umbrella organization that includes the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) outlawed organization, the country's state-run television said.

The private Dogan news agency said Mustafa Ozer, a photographer working for the French news agency, Agence France Presse, and journalists for Kurdish media organizations were among the detained.

Eric Baradat, editor-in-chief of Agence France Presse, confirmed that a photographer for the Paris-based agency was detained but could not provide any details, citing agency policy.

Turkish state media said the latest arrests are part of an investigation launched two years ago. Since then hundreds of Kurdish activists, including elected mayors, have been detained on charges of membership of the Union of Kurdistan Communities, a group prosecutors accuse of being an offshoot of the outlawed PKK. The activists deny the accusation.

The private Cihan news agency reported that police carried out operations against the outlawed KCK in various cities around the country early on Tuesday. All of these operations were deployed at the request of the Istanbul Prosecutors' Office.

Raided addresses include pro-Kurdish newspapers and the houses of some journalists. Journalists from some pro-Kurdish media outlets, including the Dicle News Agency (DİHA), were also among the detainees.

The official Anadolu Agency said Tuesday's raids were directed against the "press and propaganda" leg of the Union of Kurdistan Communities.

The state-run TRT television said police on Tuesday conducted simultaneous raids in Istanbul and six other Turkish cities, detaining some 40 people. They will be questioned by anti-terrorism police in Istanbul, the station said.

The pro-Kurdish Firat news agency said at least 25 people were rounded up and that most of the detained are journalists working for Kurdish media organizations, including the Dicle news agency and the Birgun newspaper.

Tuesday's detentions are likely to further increase concerns over press freedoms in Turkey — a predominantly Muslim democracy that seeks EU membership — where dozens of journalists have been jailed, mostly on anti-terror charges. They include journalists accused of aiding a hardline secularist network which prosecutors say plotted to bring down Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government.

The United States and the EU have criticized Turkey's press freedoms and there are calls for the country to revise anti-terrorism laws which have led to the arrests of the journalists as well as dozens of student protesters.

Earlier this year, police also arrested an academician and a publisher as well as lawyers acting for the PKK's imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan in connection with their investigation into the group. No trial date has been set.

The police have recently stepped up operations against the KCK. The KCK investigation started in December 2009 and a large number of Kurdish politicians, including several officials from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), have been detained in the case.

Since 2009, some 700 people have been arrested over their alleged links to the KCK, according to government figures, although the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) puts the figure at more than 3,500.

According to the pro-Kurdish BDP statement, over 7,000 people taken into custody in the last seven months.

KCK-trial, on October 18, 2010 a Turkish court began the trial of 152 high profile Kurdish politicians and rights defenders, accused of being the urban wing of the outlawed separatist Kurdish PKK rebels.

A Turkish court on Nov.1 pressed separatism charges against 23 suspects, in so-called KCK-Trial, including a university professor Prof. Busra Ersanli,  a political scientist, and Ragip Zarakolu, a well-known human rights activist and director of Belge Publishing House, on suspicion of membership in a separatist Kurdish PKK rebel group.

The suspects are accused of various crimes including membership in an outlawed organization, aiding and abetting a militant organization and attempting to destroy the country's unity and integrity. The detainees include mayors and municipal officials from the BDP, which has said the investigation is the government's method of suppressing its politicians, denying any links between the suspects and any outlawed organizations.

Since it was established in 1984, the Kurdistan Workers' Party PKK has been fighting the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to establish a Kurdish state in the south east of the country, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives.

But now its aim is the creation an autonomous Kurdish region and more cultural rights for ethnic Kurds who constitute the greatest minority in Turkey, numbering more than 20 million. A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels.

PKK's demands included releasing PKK detainees, lifting the ban on education in Kurdish, paving the way for an autonomous democrat Kurdish system within Turkey, reducing pressure on the detained PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, stopping military action against the Kurdish party and recomposing the Turkish constitution.

Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations.

The PKK is considered as 'terrorist' organization by Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union's terror list. 

Sources: AP | Cihan | | | Agencies

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