Turkish police detain musicians, lawyers in leftist crackdown

ISTANBUL Fri Jan 18, 2013 4:15pm EST

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish police arrested 85 people, including leftist lawyers, musicians and human rights activists, in raids against people suspected of links to an outlawed militant group, Turkish media reported on Friday.

Many of the 15 lawyers arrested were from the Progressive Lawyers' Association, which works with victims of torture and leftist prisoners, according its website.

Five members of Grup Yorum, a popular, left-leaning band playing folk-rock music, were detained, Cihan Keskek, another member of the band, told Reuters by telephone from Germany.

Radikal newspaper reported that those targeted in raids across seven cities were suspected of links to the leftist militant group the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C). Turkish police were not available to comment.

The DHKP-C, founded in 1978, wants to set up a socialist state in Turkey and supports violent means to do so. It is deemed a terrorist group by both Turkey and the United States.

In November, the U.N. Human Rights Committee said it was concerned Turkey was using a vague counterterrorism law to prosecute activists, lawyers and journalists, often holding them for long pre-trial periods without access to a lawyer.

Amnesty International's Turkey researcher Andrew Gardner said in a statement on Friday the latest detentions again raised concerns about the use of Turkey's anti-terrorism laws.

"The detention of prominent human rights lawyers and the apparent illegal search of their offices add to a pattern of prosecutions apparently cracking down on dissenting voices," Gardner said on Amnesty's website.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan won a third term in 2011, with his socially conservative AK Party enjoying unprecedented electoral support. But his opponents have pointed to the mass arrests as proof of what they see as a growing authoritarian style of rule.

Dozens of journalists are in prison in Turkey as well as thousands of lawyers, politicians, academics and military officers. Most are accused of plots against the government or support for terrorism and include leftists, ultra-nationalists and Kurdish rights activists.

Keskek of Grup Yorum said he was working abroad on the band's next album and that police had seized copies of recordings in the raid. He denied links between Grup Yorum, which describes itself as socialist, and the DHKP-C.

The DHKP-C has said it has carried out a string of suicide bombings on police targets since 2001.

(Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Rosalind Russell)

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