Court bars pro-Kurdish party leader from leaving Turkey

The move could aggravate tensions with several pro-Kurdish demonstrations planned Sunday across the country

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A Turkish court has barred a leader of the main pro-Kurdish party from leaving the country, accusing her of “belonging to an armed terrorist organization,” the state-run Anadolu news agency reported Saturday.

Figen Yuksekdag, co-chair of the leftist People’s Democratic Party (HDP), was also accused of “terrorist propaganda” and banned from leaving Turkey “because of activities that indicate she might flee” abroad, according to Anadolu.

The HDP denounced the decision as “totally arbitrary” and said it would appeal.

The move could aggravate tensions with several pro-Kurdish demonstrations planned Sunday across the country, including in Istanbul and Diyarbakir, the largest city in predominantly Kurdish southeastern Turkey.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses the HDP of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) -- listed as a terror group by Ankara, the European Union and the United States -- a claim the HDP denies.

The PKK, which has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, has resumed attacks on security forces since the rupture of a fragile ceasefire last year.

Hours after the ban on Yuksekdag was announced, authorities ordered the closure of several pro-Kurdish media, including the Dicle Haber Ajansi news agency and the Ozgur Gundem newspaper, according to a decree published Saturday evening in the official journal.

The moves by Turkish authorities come with tensions already high after the two co-mayors of Diyarbakir were taken into custody on Tuesday as part of a “terrorism” probe.

On Wednesday police used tear gas and water cannon to prevent people protesting in the city against the mayors’ detention, which was also followed by several PKK attacks on military targets.

Three soldiers were also killed Saturday in a PKK attack in the southeastern province of Hakkari and two policemen were wounded by a rocket attack in Diyarbakir, according to Anadolu, citing officials from the security forces.

In response to the death of the soldiers, the Turkish military said in a statement it had conducted air strikes in northern Iraq, where there are PKK bases, killing 10 “terrorists.”

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