From: Reuters
Published December 18, 2007 07:41 AM

Turkey arrests pro-Kurdish party leader

ANKARA (Reuters) - A military court on Tuesday remanded in custody the leader of Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party over charges that a fake health report enabled him to avoid military service, his party said.

The ruling puts fresh pressure on the Democratic Society Party (DTP), which is facing the prospect of being closed down in a separate court case after prosecutors charged it with ties to outlawed Kurdish guerrillas.

The court decision came after police detained DTP leader Nurettin Demirtas, 35, on Monday night as he disembarked from his plane in Ankara after flying in from Germany.

"Our party has become a target... Those engaged in politics should not have their path blocked," former DTP leader Ahmet Turk told a news conference.

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Demirtas, who is not a member of parliament but was elected head of the party last month, had been abroad since November 18 and his party said the decision to detain and arrest him was unjustified.

"The leader of an opposition party should not be subject to this treatment. He must be released immediately. In democratic terms it is unacceptable," Osman Baydemir, DTP mayor in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, told reporters.

Demirtas' arrest came as Turkish and Iraqi officials said Turkish troops crossed into northern Iraq overnight in a small-scale raid against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas, to whom prosecutors say the DTP is linked.

The DTP has 20 members of parliament and seeks autonomy for mainly Kurdish southeastern Turkey. The party denies any links to the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Turkey.

CNN Turk television has said Demirtas was one of 183 people being tried on charges of using fake health reports in order to avoid military service, obligatory for all healthy Turkish men.

Prosecutors are seeking a 2-5 year prison sentence for the DTP leader, who rejects the charge.

It was not clear when he had been scheduled to perform his military service.

(Reporting by Selcuk Gokoluk and Daren Butler)

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