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Turkey investigates pro-Kurdish leader over 'autonomy' remarks

Selahattin Demirtas, co-leader of Kurdish Peoples' Democracy Party, accused of crimes 'against the constitution' for comments on Sunday
Demirtas said Kurds in Turkey had to decide whether to live in autonomy or 'under one man's tyranny' (AFP)
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Turkish prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation against the leader of Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party on accusations of committing crimes against the constitutional order.

The accusations on Monday against Selahattin Demirtas, the co-leader of the Kurdish Peoples' Democracy Party, or HDP, relate to remarks he made about the possibility of autonomy for Turkey's Kurdish minority, the official Anatolia news agency said.

It said Ankara prosecutors were investigating him over accusations of crimes "against the constitution and its functioning", without specifying how long the politician could spend in prison if convicted.

Turkish media said the case related to a speech made by Demirtas on Sunday in which he said Kurds in Turkey had to decide whether to live in autonomy or "under one man's tyranny".

Demirtas has emerged as a key rival over the last year of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with many commentators saying he is the only politician in the country to rival the charisma of the Turkish leader.

Prosecutors in July had also opened a probe against Demirtas on accusations of inciting people to take up arms during October 2014 pro-Kurdish protests that left dozens dead. Under those charges, he could face up to 24 years in jail.

The Anatolia news report indicated that the two investigations were being bundled together into once case against Demirtas.

The latest investigation comes amid rising tension between the authorities and many in the Kurdish minority over the military's relentless campaign - backed by curfews - against rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in the country's southeast.

The military said on Monday that 211 PKK rebels had been killed in the current campaign, including 154 in the southeastern town of Cizre and 41 in the Sur district of the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir.

It is not possible to independently verify the figures and the areas remain under army curfew with access barred to outside observers.