Turkish police break up pro-Kurdish demonstrations in Istanbul

November 5, 2016 7:00 pm
Police in the Turkish city of have used tear gas and water cannon to disperse hundreds of people against a widening government crackdown on pro-Kurdish lawmakers.
Witnesses said on Saturday that about 1,000 protesters gathered outside the main mosque in Sisli neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul to condemn the arrests a day earlier of nine prominent lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, also known as the HDP, including the party’s co-leaders, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag.
The protesters chanted slogans denouncing the “fascist” state and vowing, “We will not be silent.”
The police rapidly moved in and tried to disperse the protesters by spraying torrents of freezing water from trucks, using tear gas and firing plastic bullets.
People were also prevented from marching on the office of the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper in downtown Istanbul hours after a court in the city ordered the formal arrest of nine journalists from the daily.
The HDP leaders and lawmakers face allegations of supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in its deadly insurgency in southeastern . Their arrest on Friday took many by surprise and prompted angry reactions from the West.
The arrests marked a sharp escalation in the Turkish government’s months-long crackdown that has seen many put behind bars or suspended from work over allegations of being linked to the PKK and Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric accused by Ankara of orchestrating the abortive coup of July 15. Gulen denies the allegation.
Earlier in the day, a court in Istanbul ordered the imprisonment of nine journalists from Cumhuriyet, saying they should go to jail pending trial. The arrested journalists face charges of having links to both Gulen and the PKK. Western governments have already voiced concern about Ankara’s repressive policies toward the media.
Turkey’s journalists’ association says about 2,500 journalists have become unemployed as a result of the government’s crackdown, which has seen some 170 newspapers, magazines, TV stations and agencies closed.
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