Turkey’s EU & American allies concerned with arrests of pro-Kurdish politicians, leaders

Police detain Sebahat Tuncel, co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP), during a protest against the arrest of Kurdish lawmakers, in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey, November 4, 2016. © Sertac Kayar
Leaders in the EU and US have voiced concerns over the arrests of two co-leaders of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and at least 12 of its MPs in Ankara and Kurdish-majority areas in eastern Turkey.

“Extremely worried for arrest of [Selahattin Demirtas, co-leader of HDP] and other [HDP] MPs,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini wrote on Twitter. “In contact with authorities. Called EU ambassadors meeting in Ankara.”

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has requested that the charge d’affaires in the Turkish embassy be summoned to discuss the arrests.

“The overnight arrests of politicians and lawmakers from the Kurdish HDP [Peoples’ Democratic Party] represent a further drastic intensification of the situation in the eyes of the foreign minister,” the German Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that the failed coup attempt that took place in July “can’t be a justification for silencing or even imprisoning the political opposition.”

France also criticized the arrests of Kurdish politicians. “France calls on Turkey to respect the rule of law and fundamental rights,” including democracy and freedom of the press, Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström called the arrests “extremely worrying.”

“The arrests risk fuelling the already existing tensions in the country. Turkish government should return to dialogue with the opposition. Peace process with the PKK is necessary for the country’s further democratization and stability,” she said in a statement.

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz criticized the arrests, as well as Turkey’s plans to reintroduce the death penalty.

“If the opposition is being silenced, journalists detained, and death penalty reinstated, this Turkey definitely has no place in the European Union,” he told a party meeting in Munich.

US Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski tweeted that he was “deeply troubled” by Turkey’s move.

“When taking legal action against elected reps, democracies have higher duty to justify actions & preserve confidence in justice,” he wrote.

According to UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani, the arrest of pro-Kurdish lawmakers may go “beyond what is permissible.”

“There needs to be a presumption of innocence when you’re going to suspend somebody from their job. When you’re going to detain somebody, you need to do this in line with due process,” she said.

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The European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur, Kati Piri, tweeted: “Very bad news from Turkey. Again. Now HDP members of parliament are being detained.”

Two co-leaders of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey and at least 12 of its MPs were detained as police raided their homes in Ankara and Kurdish-majority areas in the eastern part of the country.

On Friday morning, the Turkish Interior Ministry published a list of 11 of the detained HDP members, stating that they had been arrested on the orders of the local prosecutor. Another two MPs slated for arrest were found to be outside the country.

The lawmakers were arrested after “failing to appear for a summons to testify as part of a counter-terrorism investigation,” Anadolu state news agency reported. The testimonies are connected to “terrorist propaganda” investigations related to the Kurdish militant group PKK and pro-Kurdish protests that ended in violent clashes in October of 2014.

“I will not hesitate to be held accountable in front of a fair and impartial judiciary. There is nothing I cannot answer for,” HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtas, who was detained in his house in Diyarbakir, said in a statement to the prosecutor.

Police in Diyarbakir broke into the home of another HPD co-leader, Figen Yuksekdag, and detained her early on Friday morning.

Turkish pro-Kurdish opposition lawmaker Imam Tascıer wrote on Twitter later on Friday that he had also been detained, becoming the 12th lawmaker arrested in the crackdown.

According to Turkey Blocks, an independent organization that monitors internet censorship in Turkey, access to Twitter, Facebook, and the social messaging app WhatsApp has been severely restricted by the major providers, adding that “the majority of internet users [are] affected at the time of the measurement.”

However, it added that the shutdown has not affected the users of smaller providers so far.

The HDP responded to the raids through social media, calling on the international community to “react against the Erdogan regime’s coup,” Reuters quotes.

The HDP, which is in strong opposition to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and supports the Kurds and other minorities, has been accused of having links to PKK, which Ankara considers a terrorist organization.

Meanwhile the PKK, a militant organization with a decades-long record of armed resistance to Ankara, threatened to intensify its attacks on Turkish security forces.

In a video message on a website close to the PKK, one of its top commanders, Murat Karayilan, said that it was “very important” for Kurdish people to react against the detentions of the HDP lawmakers.

Turkey, the US, and the EU consider the PKK to be a terrorist organization.