Turkey releases former HDP co-chair Serpil Kemalbay
Serpil Kemalbay, the former co-leader of the country’s Kurdish issue-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was released from detentionon Feb. 20 after being detained one week before over her opposition to Turkey’s ongoing military engagement in northern Syria.
Police had detained Kemalbay in Ankara on Feb. 13, two days after she handed over her position as HDP co-chair to a successor.
“Our former co-leader Serpil Kemalbay has been released. Defending peace is not a crime; it is an obligation, an honor!” the party said on its Twitter account.
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, Agence France-Presse reported, citing an official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Kemalbay succeeded Figen Yüksekdağ as co-leader in May 2017 after Yüksekdağ was stripped of her status as lawmaker in February of the same year.
At a party congress on Feb. 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 “Operation Olive Branch,” launched on Jan. 20.
Turkey is conducting an air and ground offensive against People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants in the Afrin district of northern Syria.
Ankara says the YPG directly linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 and is listed as a terror network by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.
The HDP, the third-largest party in parliament, has in recent years been hit by a wave of arrests of its leaders and supporters on accusations of supporting the PKK, which the party denies.
Since the offensive began in Syria, the Turkish authorities have detained 786 people, including 587 over disseminating “propaganda” against the operation.