Kurds with Swedish citizenship arrested in Turkey

Two alleged Kurdish activists with dual Turkish-Swedish citizenship have been arrested in Diyarbakir in Turkey on charges of spreading propaganda for separatist Kurdish rebels, judicial officials said on Thursday.

A court in Diyarbakir, the biggest city in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast, ordered the arrests Wednesday of Ibrahim Guclu and Zeynel Abidin Ozalp on charges that a press statement they made earlier in the week amounted to propaganda for the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

A third person was also arrested.

The Swedish embassy was not immeditely available for comment.

Guclu and Ozalp were members of a Kurdish cultural association the authorities banned last month on grounds that a provision in its statute calling for the use of the Kurdish language in its activities was unlawful.

The statement they made to the press on Tuesday denounced army operations against the PKK, blacklisted as a terrorist group by Ankara, the European Union and the United States, and claimed that the target of a recent military build-up in the southeast was the “entire Kurdish people.”

Many Kurdish dissidents were granted political asylum in European countries in the 1990s, when the prosecution of activists and intellectuals opposed to the official stance on the Kurdish question was commonplace.

Some have returned to Turkey over the past few years after Ankara undertook a series of reforms to expand Kurdish cultural freedoms as part of efforts to boost its EU membership bid.

The Kurdish conflict in Turkey has claimed more than 37,000 lives since the PKK took up arms for Kurdish self-rule in the southeast in 1984.