Turkey arrests five mayors for supporting Kurdish armed groups

The arrests are just the latest in a string of detentions of opponents of the ruling AKP

epa08286601 A handout photo made available by the Turkish President Press office shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) at their group meeting at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey, 11 March 2020.  EPA/TURKISH PRESIDENT PRESS OFFICE HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

Turkey has arrested five mayors of Kurdish-majority municipalities in the country's south-east in the latest campaign against politicians from the left-wing Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP).

Ankara has arrested several pro-minority HDP mayors and other municipal officials in recent months.

The ruling party, AKP, accuses HDP of supporting Kurdish armed groups, including an outlawed group accused of planning the 2016 attempted coup.

HDP deputy chairman Mithat Sancar said on Monday that security forces had surrounded municipality buildings in the province of Batman, as well as those in the Egil, Silvan, Lice and Ergani districts of Diyarbakir province.

Mr Sancar condemned the move, saying the party had not received official notification from the central government.

“We reject with hatred this vile attempt that does not shy away from showing enmity against Kurds even in these difficult days when the whole world is battling an epidemic,” he said.

The Interior Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly claimed the HDP has ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that has been fighting in an insurgency in Turkey since 1984.

Thousands of HDP members have been prosecuted on the same charge, including its leaders.

The party denies any affiliation with the outlawed Kurdish militant group.