Turkish Hizbullah arrests spark protests

ANKARA, TURKEY: Non-governmental organizations protested Tuesday in eastern and southeastern Turkey the raids carried out on Monday against associations with suspected links to the illegal fundamentalist group Turkish Hizbullah, the Hurriyet Daily News reported.

At least 500 people protested the latest detentions. More than 40 people were taken into custody late Monday in the operations carried out in 13 cities, including Istanbul and Ankara and the provinces of Van, Diyarbakır and Batman.

"The associations raided are legal organizations and their members have no illegal connections," said Fuat Değer, a member of the Van branch of the Association for Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples at a press conference.

"Raiding those associations and treating their volunteers as terrorists is a clear violation of our constitutional right to organize," Değer added.

A police official told another daily that the operations were carried out against Hizbullah supporters who went missing after being released from prison last month.

The raids targeted the office of two local newspapers and the provincial branches of two non-governmental organizations. Among those in custody are a top commander, and the brother of another Hizbullah leader.

Turkish Hizbullah, which is unrelated to the Lebanese group, hit the headlines in 2000 when police found some 70 bodies of its alleged victims in mass graves across the country. The group is listed as a terrorist organization.


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