4 Nov 2016

Car bomb attack after Turkish MPs detained

10:24 pm on 4 November 2016

A car bomb rocked southeastern Turkey's largest city tonight, killing at least one person and injuring more than 40, hours after police detained the leaders of the mostly Kurdish region's biggest political party.

A man and women leave a damaged building at the site of an explosion on 4 November 2016 after a strong blast in Diyarbakir.

A man and women leave a damaged building at the site of the explosion in Diyarbakir on Friday. Photo: AFP

The blast struck near the police station in Diyarbakir, where where some of the party leaders were being held in a terrorism probe.

The blast tore off the facades of buildings. Firefighters were searching debris for people trapped there.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said police and civilians were killed.

Ambulances could be seen rushing to the scene of the explosion, close to a police building.

Hours earlier, the two co-leaders of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party, People's Democracy (HDP), were detained along with at least nine other MPs.

Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag were held at their respective homes as part of a counter-terrorism inquiry, security sources told Turkish media.

Ms Yuksekdag was detained in the capital, Ankara.

Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yüksekdag in Ankara following a parliamentary vote in Turkey on 1 November 2015.

HDP co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yüksekdag in Ankara following a parliamentary vote in Turkey last November. Photo: AFP / Citizenside

Turkey remains under a state of emergency that was imposed after a failed coup in July. The emergency allows President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his cabinet to bypass parliament when drafting new laws and to restrict or suspend rights and freedoms.

'Totally unlawful'

The detention order for the MPs is for alleged propaganda for the PKK Kurdish militants, suspected of being behind Friday's blast and a wave of recent attacks. The party strongly denies links to the group.

Police searched the HDP's head offices in central Ankara as well as making the arrests.

The PKK is deemed a terrorist organisation by the US, the European Union and Turkey.

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Whatsapp were reported to be inaccessible inside Turkey shortly after the detentions, even when users tried to circumvent restrictions using a virtual private network (VPN).

Mr Demirtas tweeted about his arrest before the sites were restricted.

Another MP from the party who is currently abroad, Ertugrul Kurkcu, told the BBC that the detentions were "totally unlawful".

He said: "This crackdown tonight is nothing to do with procedural law, criminal law, any law whatsoever or the constitution. This is an unlawful hijacking of HDP parliamentarians.

"The Turkish government is heading towards a dictatorship of Nazi style [sic]. Will the Turkish government abide by the internationally accepted standards of parliamentary democracy? This is the basic question."

Last month, the co-mayors of Turkey's largest Kurdish-majority city were detained, also as part of a terrorism investigation.

Crackdown

About 100,000 public sector employees with alleged links to the coup's alleged mastermind were subsequently purged from their jobs.

The HDP entered the Turkish parliament for the first time last year, when it won 59 seats and became the country's third-largest party.

Mr Demirtas has accused the ruling party of orchestrating nationalist attacks.

Turkish politicians normally have immunity from prosecution but this was removed from the HDP earlier this year.

- BBC / Reuters

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