UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (VOP TODAY NEWS) — Riot police fired water cannon and tear gas on Tuesday to disperse protesters in southeast Turkey protesting the ouster of three Kurdish mayors elected five months ago.
Ankara appointed government officials on Monday instead of mayors from the pro-Kurdish Democratic People’s Party and arrested more than 400 people on suspicion of links to militants in a move strongly criticized by opposition parties.
In Diyarbakir, the region’s largest city, police repeatedly used water cannons to disperse protesters who had gathered in small groups to protect themselves from water.
While some of the protesters were fleeing the area, riot police chased them with sticks.
Protesters gathered near the town hall in Diyarbakir, which was cordoned off by the authorities with metal barriers after a government official replaced the elected mayor on Sunday.
“Today you can see here the system of pressure and persecution,” PDP leader Sezai Temeli told reporters in a statement on a street in Diyarbakir, coinciding with police action against protesters.
“We will continue to resist from anywhere because resistance is our legitimate right.”
The mayors of Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van, three major cities in the southeast, face charges of various crimes, including belonging to a terrorist organization and spreading propaganda to a terrorist group, the Interior Ministry says.
The ministry said on Monday it had launched an operation with the participation of about 2,300 special forces against PKK elements in three southeastern provinces.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had warned ahead of local elections in March that he might take such action against elected officials if they were found to have links to the PKK.
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