The European Parliament and the European Commission issued strongly worded condemnations of the detention of members of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition party.
The arrests took place overnight on Friday (4 November) and included Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yüksekdağ, co-leaders of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Ten other HDP members of parliament were also detained, although some were reported to have been released later.
Following the failed military coup on 15 July, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency for three months in the country. In beginning of October, the state of emergency was extended by 90 days. Tens of thousands of people have been detained and many more suspended or fired from their jobs.
In a joint statement on 4 November, High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Johannes Hahn, responsible for accession negotiations with Turkey, wrote that “the European Union is gravely concerned about the detention last night of several HDP Members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly on charges alleging support of terrorist activities.”
“These developments add to the concerns we expressed after the immunity of more than 130 democratically elected Members of Parliament was lifted in May this year. They compromise parliamentary democracy in Turkey and exacerbate the already very tense situation in the South East of the country, for which there can only be a political solution.”
While “the EU considers actions against PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), listed as a terrorist organisation also by the EU, as legitimate”, it believes “at the same time that such actions must never undermine the basic principles of democracy.”
The statement adds: “We expect Turkey to safeguard its parliamentary democracy, including respect for human rights and the rule of law, and we are conveying these expectations directly to the Turkish authorities. Together with the Council of Europe, the EU will continue to follow and assess the situation very closely, in constant coordination with all Member States.”
The European Commission is currently preparing its annual reports on the progress made by Turkey and other candidate countries towards membership in the EU. The reports which normally are published in October were delayed last year. Last week’s events in Turkey may delay the publication of the reports even more.
In a separate statement, European Parliament President Martin Schulz said the actions “call into question the basis for the sustainable relationship between the EU and Turkey”.
“Today’s detentions send a chilling signal about the state of political pluralism in Turkey. Selahattin Demirtaş, Figen Yüksekdag and HDP Members of Parliament are legitimate and democratic representatives of Turkish society. The HDP is the third biggest group in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.”
“With this last high profile string of detentions – a continuation of the crackdown on other HDP elected representatives – Turkish authorities are not just pushing Turkey further away from democracy, but they are also turning their backs on the values, principles, norms and rules underpinning EU-Turkey relations.”
“These events must be addressed as a matter of urgency,” says the statement by Martin Schultz.
“Turkey is a candidate country to the European Union and a member of the Customs Union. The course of action by the Government calls into question the basis for the sustainable relationship between EU and Turkey and the commitment of the Turkish Government to democratic values and to its European aspirations.”
According to media, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters: “Turkey is a nation of laws, nobody has preferential treatment before the law … What has been done is within the rule of law. The HDP lawmakers were arrested after they refused to give testimony in a probe linked to “terrorist propaganda”.
The Brussels Times (Source: European Parliament and European Commission)