Turkey Shuts Union Offices in Ocalan Raids

DIYARBAKIR (Reuters)–A court ordered shut three trade union branch offices in southeastern Turkey and police detained 48 union members for allegedly backing Kurds–local police said on Thursday.

The move was part of a crackdown on Kurdish activism in Turkey following the arrest of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan last month in Rome.

The union offices in the town of Sanliurfa were sealed on Wednesday after a joint statement by the unions calling for a cease-fire in the country’s 14-year-old Kurdish conflict–police told Reuters.

They said they had detained 48 people for holding a hunger strike in the union offices after issuing the statement. The protesters were remanded in custody for further interrogation.

A further 34 hunger-striking members of one of the unions were detained for the same reason in Istanbul on Thursday–state-run Anatolian news agency said.

Turkey is embroiled in a diplomatic row with Italy over the fate of Ocalan. Ankara wants him handed over for trial in Turkey for treason–but Italy’s constitution bars it from extraditing anyone to a country such as Turkey which has the death penalty.

Turkey holds Ocalan responsible for the deaths of more than 29,000 people since his Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) took up arms for Kurdish self-rule in 1984.

Italy said on Wednesday it would prefer Ocalan be tried in another European country but that the government might be obliged to put him on trial there.

A nationwide crackdown has been carried out on the country’s biggest legal Kurdish party–the People’s Democracy Party (HADEP)–following Ocalan’s seizure–with hundreds arrested in police raids on party headquarters.

HADEP calls for an negotiated end to the conflict between Turkish security forces and Ocalan’s loyalists.

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