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Turkey jails Kurdish party leaders as attack kills nine

ISTANBUL, AUG 11:- Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wave national flags as they listen to him through a giant screen in Istanbul's Taksim Square, Turkey, August 10, 2016. REUTERS-6R

Diyarbakir (Turkey): Turkey has jailed two leaders of the country’s main pro-Kurdish party and several other MPs, in an unprecedented crackdown as a bombing killed nine in the Kurdish-dominated southeast.

A court in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir remanded in custody Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag yesterday after they were detained along with 10 of its MPs, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.

Including Demirtas and Yuksekdag, nine of the 12 HDP MPs were placed under arrest by the courts pending trial in hearings that lasted throughout the day.

The United States and European Union both raised alarm over the arrests, which marked a new escalation of the clampdown under the state of emergency imposed in the wake of the July 15 coup attempt.

Hours earlier, a blast blamed on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) struck outside a police station in Diyarbakir, Turkey’s main majority-Kurdish city.

Nine people were killed, including two police, and over 100 were wounded, Anadolu said. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the PKK had again showed its “ugly face” with the attack.

With tensions again escalating in Turkey nearly four months after July’s failed coup, authorities slapped restrictions on social media including messaging services like WhatsApp.

Yildirim confirmed the move, saying such measures were imposed from “time to time” as a precaution and would be lifted once the danger had passed.

The turbulence also battered the Turkish lira. It was trading at 3.16 to the dollar, after earlier hitting new historic lows and losing nearly 1.5 per cent in value on the day.

The arrest of the HDP leaders marked a new stage in the crackdown on leading pro-Kurdish politicians as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wages a remorseless battle to destroy the PKK.

Demirtas has been charged with “membership of an armed group” — a reference to the PKK — while Yuksekdag is charged with making “terror propaganda” for the group, Anadolu said.

The HDP said in a statement that the goal of the measures was to shut down the party, but it vowed not to surrender to these “dictatorial policies”.

“It means the end of democracy in Turkey,” the party said.

In a handwritten statement read by his lawyers, Demirtas said he was the victim of a “civilian coup by the government and the palace”.

After his jailing he managed to shout, “We will definitely win!”. The Turkish version of this phrase immediately became a top-trending hashtag.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Twitter she was “extremely worried” over the detentions and would call a meeting of EU ambassadors in Ankara.

AFP