Pro-Kurdish party members detained before Turkey’s elections

March 30, 2019
FILE-In this Sunday, March 24, 2019 file photo, some thousands of supporters of pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, or HDP, gather to celebrate the Kurdish New Year and to attend a campaign rally in Istanbul, ahead of local elections scheduled for March 31, 2019. Millions of Kurdish votes could be crucial in determining the outcome of the elections being held amid a heavy government crackdown on the HDP for alleged links to outlawed Kurdish militants.(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel, File)

ISTANBUL (AP) — A pro-Kurdish party in Turkey says party members have been detained in the lead-up to Sunday’s municipal elections.

The Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP, said in a statement Saturday that 53 people were detained in Istanbul overnight. They include candidates running for municipal council seats. It said the detentions were an attack on the party that would mar the legitimacy of the elections.

Turkey’s private Demiroren news agency said anti-terror police conducted simultaneous raids in multiple Istanbul districts.

The government accuses the HDP of links to outlawed Kurdish militants, and 10 lawmakers, 40 mayors and thousands of activists remain jailed. On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated the accusation and called the party “terror lovers.”

The HDP says it’s running in the elections through legal, democratic means to regain seats in the predominantly Kurdish southeast.