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Two pro-Kurdish lawmakers in Turkey arrested on terrorism charges - sources

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish court ordered the arrest of two lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on Monday, security sources said, bringing the total of jailed deputies from the Turkish opposition group to 12.

HDP’s Adana deputy Meral Danis Bestas was detained by police at her home in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, while Ayhan Bilgen, the head of the party’s parliamentary group chief, was taken by security forces at the city’s airport.

Both are accused of being members of an armed terrorist organisation, sources said.

Turkish authorities say the HDP, parliament’s third-largest party with 59 seats, is an affiliate of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

The HDP denies direct links to the outlawed group and says it wants to see a return to peace talks between the government and the PKK, which has carried out a three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast.

In recent months, thousands of Kurdish politicians have been detained, including dozens of local mayors in the southeast.

Turkish authorities in November arrested Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, the two leaders of the HDP, drawing strong international condemnation over what rights groups say is a widening crackdown on dissent under President Tayyip Erdogan.

Prosecutors are seeking jail sentences of up to 142 years for the two on charges including managing a terrorist organisation, according to the court indictment seen by Reuters.

Another HDP lawmaker, Idris Baluken, was released on Monday after nearly three months in jail on charges including terrorist propaganda and membership of a terrorist group, CNN Turk reported. He is still facing a life sentence pending trial.

Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Tom Heneghan