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Iraq: Dozens of pro-PKK protesters detained in Kurdish region, says official

Some of the demonstrators were also beaten during a rally against Turkish operations in Sulaymaniyah on Sunday, according to a Kurdish party official
Kurdish authorities have not provided any details on the purported arrests and it is not known if charges have been brought (AFP/file pic)

Kurdish security forces have detained dozens of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) supporters for protesting against the latest Turkish military incursion into Iraq, a party official said on Wednesday, adding that some had received "beatings".

"Fifty-four protesters were arrested during a rally in Sulaymaniyah" on Sunday by Kurdish security forces in the south of the autonomous northern Iraqi region, Mohammed Abdallah, head of the Movement for the Freedom of Kurdistan Society, told AFP.

Abdallah, whose party is close to the PKK, said that some of those arrested were subjected to "violence, beatings and insults by the police".  

Kurdish authorities have not provided any details on the purported arrests and it is not known if charges have been brought.

The demonstration was organised the day after the Turkish military launched a cross-border ground and air operation against the PKK in the north of Iraqi Kurdistan near the Turkish border, Abdallah said. 

Arbitrary arrests

The PKK, which is classified as a terrorist group by Ankara, the US and the EU, has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, in which tens of thousands of people have died.

It has long used the rugged terrain of northern Iraq as a rear base to wage attacks on Turkey, which in turn set up military positions inside Iraqi territory to fight them.

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Nine women and a journalist, Rebaz Hassan of the pro-PKK news agency Firat, were among those arrested at the weekend, Abdallah said.

The journalist was released along with 15 others, but the rest "remain in detention," he said. 

Turkey regularly launches attacks against PKK installations in northern Iraq. 

Iraqi authorities have protested against those military operations, but Turkey has defended its right to bomb the PKK and accused Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government of turning a blind eye to the group's activities.

Human rights associations regularly criticise Iraqi Kurdish authorities for carrying out arbitrary arrests, suppressing protests and attacking press freedoms.

In Sulaymaniyah last year, eight protesters died and dozens were arrested amid anti-government rallies over delayed public sector salaries and pay cuts. 

Families of some of the youths who died in that unrest are still awaiting justice.