Dutch police raid PKK meeting, hold 55 for questioning

AMSTERDAM Mon Dec 3, 2012 9:54am EST

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch police raided a secret meeting of members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) on Monday and detained 55 people after a tip from the intelligence service, prosecutors said.

The PKK has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule in southeastern Turkey since 1984 and is designated as a terrorist organization by Ankara, the United States and the European Union. It has also been banned in the Netherlands since 2007.

Dutch authorities have finger-printed and photographed the suspects who will be detained for three days for further questioning, prosecution spokesman Wim de Bruin said.

"We are still trying to determine if they are wanted internationally," he said.

De Bruin said he could not confirm if leaders of the European arm of the militant group, against whom arrest warrants have been issued, were among those detained.

"Turkey puts various countries under political and economic pressure to call the PKK terrorists, but that has no importance for us. There are Kurdish people living in many countries. The PKK is the Kurdish people and the Kurdish people are the PKK," said PKK spokesman Roj Welat, speaking from northern Iraq.

"The Erdogan government is conducting a genocide against the Kurdish people; politically, socially, culturally, economically and militarily," he added, referring to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

About 150 police raided a holiday park in Ellemeet, a village in the southwest of the Netherlands, at 6 a.m. when the members of the PKK group were still asleep.

De Bruin said the PKK group had booked a building with accommodation and a meeting room at the holiday park.

The meetings had started on Friday and were expected to last a week, the prosecutor's office said, adding that the PKK recruits young Kurds in the Netherlands for its armed struggle against the Turkish army.

Until being banned, the PKK held rallies in the Netherlands, at which tens of thousands of members from across the continent would come to hear its leaders speak.

(Reporting by Sara Webb and Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam, and Jon Hemming in London; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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