Lawmakers brawl in Turkish parliament over pro-Kurdish mayor's detention

ANKARA (Reuters) - Lawmakers from Turkey's ruling AK Party and the pro-Kurdish DEM Party brawled in parliament's general assembly on Tuesday over the detention and replacement of a DEM Party mayor in southeast Turkey.

On Monday, police detained Mehmet Siddik Akis, mayor of the southeastern Hakkari province bordering Iran and Iraq, just two months after he won power in local elections. Turkey's Interior Ministry said Akis played a high-level role within the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militia, while replacing him with the state governor.

After the 2019 municipal elections, Turkey detained virtually all pro-Kurdish mayors over alleged PKK ties and replaced them with state officials. DEM has previously denied any association with the PKK.

Tensions flared in parliament when DEM lawmakers held signs and chanted slogans, occupying the speaking podium in the general assembly in protest of Akis' detention and replacement.

"Shoulder to shoulder against fascism," DEM lawmakers chanted, as legislators from President Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party (AKP) chanted counter-slogans such as "Damn the PKK" while ripping up signs held by DEM lawmakers.

Footage showed the lawmakers arguing loudly and shoving each other. A punch led to one scuffle that caused some lawmakers to fall over, with others held back from joining in the fight.

It was not immediately clear who threw the punch.

The general assembly closed for the day after the incident.

The main opposition Republican People's Party has also criticised the detention and replacement of Akis, calling it "disrespect" to the people of Hakkari.

In the March 31 local elections, DEM reaffirmed its regional strength, winning 10 provinces in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast.

Turkish authorities accuse DEM and its pro-Kurdish predecessors of ties to the PKK, which is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Over 40,000 people have been killed in the PKK's separatist insurgency against the Turkish state, launched in 1984.

(Reporting by Nevzat Devranoglu; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Rod Nickel)