Report: Turkey detains 40 for alleged rebel links

December 20, 2011 - 7:56 AM

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish police on Tuesday detained some 40 people, including a number of journalists, as part of a growing investigation into a Kurdish group that prosecutors accuse of links to Kurdish rebels, the country's state-run television said.

The private Dogan news agency said Mustafa Ozer, a photographer working for the French news agency, Agence France Presse, and journalists for Kurdish media organizations were among the detained.

Eric Baradat, editor-in-chief of Agence France Presse, confirmed that a photographer for the Paris-based agency was detained but could not provide any details, citing agency policy.

Turkish state media said the latest arrests are part of an investigation launched two years ago. Since then hundreds of Kurdish activists, including elected mayors, have been detained on charges of membership of the Union of Kurdistan Communities, a group prosecutors accuse of being an offshoot of the outlawed PKK. The activists deny the accusation.

The official Anadolu Agency said Tuesday's raids were directed against the "press and propaganda" leg of the Union of Kurdistan Communities.

The PKK, branded a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey since 1984. Tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict since then.

The state-run TRT television said police on Tuesday conducted simultaneous raids in Istanbul and six other Turkish cities, detaining some 40 people. They will be questioned by anti-terrorism police in Istanbul, the station said.

The pro-Kurdish Firat news agency said at least 25 people were rounded up and that most of the detained are journalists working for Kurdish media organizations, including the Dicle news agency and the Birgun newspaper.

Tuesday's detentions are likely to further increase concerns over press freedoms in Turkey — a predominantly Muslim democracy that seeks EU membership — where dozens of journalists have been jailed, mostly on anti-terror charges. They include journalists accused of aiding a hardline secularist network which prosecutors say plotted to bring down Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government.

The United States and the EU have criticized Turkey's press freedoms and there are calls for the country to revise anti-terrorism laws which have led to the arrests of the journalists as well as dozens of student protesters.

Earlier this year, police also arrested an academician and a publisher as well as lawyers acting for the PKK's imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan in connection with their investigation into the group. No trial date has been set.

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Associated Press writer Jenny Barchfield in Paris contributed.