Turkey issues arrest warrants for 82 over pro-Kurdish protests

Turkish authorities have issued arrest warrants for 82 people, including a mayor, over pro-Kurdish protests six years ago, officials and local media have said.

The warrants relate to October 2014 protests in Turkey sparked by the seizure of the mainly Kurdish-Syrian town of Kobane by Islamic State fighters.

The Ankara chief public prosecutor’s office said the police were on the hunt for the suspects in the Turkish capital and six other provinces.

The office did not specify what offences the 82 people were alleged to have committed. But it said crimes committed during the protests included murder, attempted murder, theft, damaging property, looting, burning the Turkish flag and injuring 326 security officials and 435 citizens.

There was also a warrant for the mayor of the eastern city of Kars, Ayhan Bilgen, Hurriyet daily reported.

Bilgen won local elections in the city in 2019 representing the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic party (HDP), Turkey’s second-largest opposition group in the parliament.

Of a total of 65 HDP mayors returned in those elections, 47 have now been replaced by unelected officials, with some detained on terror charges, the party said last month.

The Turkish government accuses the HDP of being a political front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ party – which has waged an insurgency against the state since 1984 – but the party denies this.

The former HDP co-leaders Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş were named in the investigation but both have been in jail since 2016 pending multiple trials.

The government accused the HDP of encouraging people to take part in the protests across Turkey that left 37 dead. But the HDP blames the police for the violence.