World Bulletin/News Desk
Prosecutors in Turkey are investigating an impromptu roadside meeting at which pro-Kurdish MPs smiled and embraced separatist militants in the southeast of the country, an act which drew strong criticism from senior political leaders on Sunday.
The incident happened on Friday when Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels set up a roadblock and stopped a Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) convoy. Newspaper photos showed the MPs embracing five militants, who had rifles slung over their shoulders.
The PKK, designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union, launched its separatist insurgency 28 years ago and more than 40,000 people have since been killed.
Kurdish politicians, including those from the BDP, are frequently prosecuted for alleged links to the PKK, but deny ties with the militants. Previous Kurdish parties similar to the BDP have been closed down for such links.
"Those images are very saddening," President Abdullah Gul told reporters on Sunday after prayers at a mosque to mark Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim feast at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
"I warn all citizens that they must distance themselves very clearly from those who are embroiled in violence, blood and terrorism," he added.
The state prosecutor's office in the eastern province of Van has begun a preliminary investigation into the meeting in Hakkari province's Semdinli district under anti-terrorism laws, state-run Anatolian news agency reported.
Prosecutors would ask parliament to lift the MPs' immunity from prosecution, it added.
Friday's incident occurred when the BDP delegation, led by deputy party leader Gultan Kisanak and including eight other MPs, was travelling to a village in Semdinli.
Aysel Tugluk, an independent MP in the group, defended their actions when asked about the investigation.
"We are happy about the encounter. It was meaningful and significant for us to at least hear from them how they are fighting and in what circumstances," Tugluk said.
"They (prosecutors) can open as many investigations and impose as many penalties as they like," she told reporters.
Semdinli is a mountainous area on the border with Iran and Iraq, where the several-thousand strong militant force is based. In recent weeks it has been the scene of intense fighting between the PKK and the Turkish military.
Ankara has accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of giving the militants weapons and of allowing a PKK proxy party to exert its authority in towns in northern Syria - a move which has prompted threats of military intervention from Turkey.
The PKK has recently revived the practice of setting up roadblocks in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey to spread party propaganda and to kidnap Turkish officials. Most recently, it seized an opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy in Tunceli province, releasing him unharmed last Tuesday.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan commented on both incidents on Sunday, criticising both the kidnapped CHP deputy and the BDP for refusing to label the PKK a terrorist group.
"Why? Because the separatist terrorist organisation is the reason for their existence or their entry into parliament," Erdogan told reporters.
"They enter parliament thanks to the fear which the separatist terrorist organisation creates in society," he said.
Soldiers who allegedly took part in attack targeting Turkish president's hotel the night of the failed coup are detained
Judicial council announces appointments following president's decree on restructuring
Çavuşoğlu warns that Gülen may attempt to topple the government of a 3rd country he may ask asylum
Discount on natural gas prices will be made even if gas price arbitration cases are not concluded, energy minister says
Police searches reveal dollar bills believed to be used as code within Fetullah Gulen organization
Central Bank says it will expand rediscount credit facility by $3 billion to $20 billion post-coup plot
Officers rounded up in wide-ranging campaign of arrests following failed July 15 coup
Turkey's biggest LPG company will relentlessly continue its investments for the long term, says CEO of Ipragaz
A move to detain journalists is the latest in a string of arrests since the failed coup of July 15
Turkish diplomat says state of emergency is 'not martial law'
Republican People's Party (CHP) leader addresses thousands at rally in Istanbul's Taksim Square
Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar says army, police will stand shoulder to shoulder
Meeting scheduled for July 25 at presidential palace in Ankara
Supporters of the ruling party as well as from the opposition as well as those from across the political spectrum gathered in Taksim square to defend their country
A massive fire broke out overnight near the NATO base in Turkey in what officials fear may be a sabotage attempt.
Wheelchair-bound Bennur Karaburun told colleagues: 'Let's wear our shrouds'