November 23, 2015 / 9:20 AM / in 2 years

Turkish police, pro-Kurdish party at odds over alleged attack on leader

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - Pro-Kurdish opposition leader Selahattin Demirtas asked Turkish prosecutors on Monday to investigate what he described as an assassination attempt on him, and his party rejected a police statement asserting damage to his car was not caused by gunfire.

Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), talks to the media before casting his ballot at a polling station during a general election in Istanbul, Turkey November 1, 2015. REUTERS/Osman Orsalâ€

Demirtas filed a criminal complaint with the state prosecutor in the city of Diyarbakir, asking it to investigate the alleged attempt on his life on Sunday when the car he was riding in was fired upon, according to a copy of the filing e-mailed by his Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

He was also quoted as saying he had faced increased threats lately. “According to intelligence, as well as information that has reached police, there is concrete information that different groups were preparing an assassination,” Demirtas, 42, told the DIHA news agency.

The alleged attack occurred amid renewed violence in the mainly Kurdish southeast after a 2-1/2-year ceasefire by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) collapsed in July.

On Monday, two people were killed, including a 17-year-old boy, when police opened fire on a car after the driver did not heed orders to stop in the town of Silvan, north of Diyarbakir, officials said. They suspected the passengers were about to attack an armored police vehicle.

Separately, a police officer was killed and a second wounded when unidentified gunmen opened fire on their vehicle in the town of Siverek in Sanliurfa province, officials said.

Security sources said PKK militants were responsible for a bomb attack on Monday that wounded six Turkish soldiers traveling in a vehicle near the town of Varto in Mus province.

‘CLEAR ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT’

Figen Yuksekdag, who heads the HDP with Demirtas, told a news conference in Ankara that the bulletproof rear window of Demirtas’s car was hit at the same height as his head.

But the city’s police said an analysis of damage to a rear window showed no evidence of gunfire.

“No remnants of gunfire were detected in the analysis. The assessment was made that the damage was caused by a blow from a hard object,” the police said in a statement. “There was no attack on him (Demirtas) or his vehicle.”

Those findings were “unsound and inconsistent” with the evidence, Yuksekdag said.

“The attack on Demirtas was a clear assassination attempt,” she said. “This is not a criminal but a political case.”

The HDP won seats in parliament for the first time in June’s election, helping deprive the ruling AK Party of its majority. Its vote remained above the 10 percent threshold to stay in the assembly in this month’s repeat poll, in which the AK Party regained its majority.

HDP supporters have been targeted in bomb attacks in recent months, including one in Ankara believed to have been carried out by Islamic State sympathizers that killed more than 100.

The ease with which attackers have targeted the HDP means the party does not trust what authorities are saying about the latest incident, Yuksekdag said at the news conference.

Demirtas has visibly elevated his security in recent months, and the HDP has repeatedly warned of threats to his life.

Additional reporting by Gulsen Solaker in Ankara and Melih Aslan in Istanbul; Writing by Daren Butler and Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by David Dolan and Ralph Boulton

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