First Published: 2018-02-20

Turkey releases leading pro-Kurdish politician
Police arrested Serpil Kemalbay of Peoples' Democratic Party over her opposition to Ankara's offensive in northern Syria.
Middle East Online

Serpil Kemalbay

ANKARA - Turkey on Tuesday released the former co-leader of the country's main pro-Kurdish party, the group said, after she was detained over her opposition to Ankara's offensive in northern Syria.

Police arrested Serpil Kemalbay of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) in Ankara on February 13, two days after she handed over her job to a successor.

"Our former co-leader Serpil Kemalbay has been released. Defending peace is not a crime; it is an obligation, an honour!" the party said on Twitter.

Kemalbay, who still faces charges and has been placed under judicial control, will have to report regularly to the authorities and cannot leave the country, an HDP official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Kemalbay succeeded Figen Yuksekdag as co-leader in May 2017 after Yuksekdag was stripped of her status as lawmaker in February of the same year.

At a party congress on February 11 Pervin Buldan took over Kemalbay's job.

Turkish media reported that Kemalbay had been taken into custody over calls for protests against the cross-border operation dubbed "Olive Branch" launched last month.

Turkey is conducting an air and ground offensive against the People's Protection Units (YPG) militia in the Afrin region of northern Syria.

Ankara says the YPG are "terrorists" linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

The HDP, the third-largest party in parliament, has been hit by arrests of its leaders and supporters on accusations of supporting the PKK, which the party denies.

Since the offensive began in Syria, Turkish authorities have detained 786 people, including 587 over disseminating "propaganda" against the operation.


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