Turkish police detained at least 66 people, including several journalists, on terrorism-related charges in Friday morning raids, for attendance at Nevruz celebrations in southeastern Diyarbakır province in March, the Kronos news website reported on Friday.
The police simultaneously raided locations early in the morning hours as part of an investigation launched by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, detaining 66 out of 105 people facing detention.
The detainees were reportedly charged with “spreading terrorist propaganda” and “resisting the police” during the Nevruz celebrations.
Nevruz is celebrated by Kurds as the first day of spring. However, Nevruz celebrations have often been marked by heavy-handed police intervention.
The detainees, including Kadri Esen, the publisher of the Kurdish-language Xwebûn daily, and journalist Ali Koçer, were taken to the Diyarbakır Police Department.
Nevruz was celebrated on March 21 in Diyarbakır as large groups gathered at the festival venue early in the morning. While many people chanted Kurdish slogans of freedom and peace, police did not allow Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) banners in the area.
Nearly 5,000 people were subjected to security searches at the entrance, and many protested that the police were far too slow. Police intervened against the buildup of angry people waiting to get in with batons, tear gas and water cannon.
Earlier this month, the police detained 30 people who took part in Nevruz celebrations on March 20 in the popular holiday resort of Bodrum.
In 2017 a police officer fatally shot Kurdish university student Kemal Kurkut during Nevruz celebrations in Diyarbakır. Police found poetry books and clothing in Kurkut’s backpack after he was shot on suspicion that he was a “suicide bomber.”
Last year İstanbul police detained 14 people in the city celebration of Nevruz. Four people were detained for allegedly resisting police, while 10 were taken into custody on charges of disseminating “terrorist propaganda.”