Zarakolu among Dozens Arrested On Charges of Aiding Kurd Rebels

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ANKARA (Associated Press) — A Turkish court on Tuesday pressed separatism charges against 23 suspects, including a university professor and a publisher, on suspicion of membership in a separatist Kurdish rebel group, state-run television reported.

The court in Istanbul said the suspects included Prof. Busra Ersanli and Ragip Zarakolu, founder of Belge Publishing, according to the state-run TRT channel. They were among about 50 suspects detained over the weekend in a crackdown on the autonomy-seeking Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK.

Zarakolu’s publishing house has published several books on the Armenian Genocide in Turkey, at great risk to himself. Ersanli, a member of the Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) Party Council and Constitutional Commission, Zarakolu and 48 others were interrogated by a prosecutor. The prosecutor referred 47 of them to court late on Monday, requesting their arrest.

The KCK is accused of attempting to establish an alternative governing system and terrorizing locals in the country’s predominantly Kurdish areas. Most of the accused face charges of membership in and/or aiding and abetting a terrorist group.

Ninety-six people were arrested as part of another operation against the KCK in Istanbul earlier this month.

A group of Turkish academics launched a petition campaign to protest the detention of Ersanli and to call for her release. A joint statement by the group said the detention of Ersanli, who has for years been working for sustainable peace and a new constitution in Turkey, led to outrage among all circles in the country that believe in the democratic state of law.

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“The detention of Prof. Büsra Ersanli is a heavy blow dealt to Turkey’s efforts towards a real democracy with equality, peace, social justice and academic and political freedoms. We demand the immediate release of Prof. Büsra Ersanli and all other jailed politicians, academics and journalists who work for peace, democratic rights and freedoms in our country,” the statement said in part.

(Today’s Zaman contributed to this report.)