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European envoys summoned as Turkey's political crisis deepens

The pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) has said it would boycott parliament after its senior members were arrested. A leaked European Commission report warns Turkey's democracy is seriously backsliding.

The HDP said on Sunday it was "halting its legislative efforts" after its leaders and other lawmakers were detained and said it would no longer take part in general assembly sittings. "After discussions with our parliamentary group and our central executive board, we have decided to halt our legislative efforts in light of everything that has happened," party spokesman Ayhan Bilgen said in a statement read out in front of its offices in Diyarbakir, the de facto capital of Turkey's predominately Kurdish southeast.

Bilgen later clarified that the party, Turkey's second-largest opposition bloc, was not fully withdrawing from parliament and its deputies would remain members, but they would not take part in general assembly sittings or parliamentary commission meetings.

The co-leaders of the HDP and seven others were detained Friday after refusing to submit to questioning by prosecutors in a counterterrorism investigation. The Turkish government accuses the HDP of links to the armed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which it denies.

The crackdown on the HDP, which made history last year by becoming the first Kurdish party to cross the 10 percent electoral threshold and enter parliament, has been roundly criticized by Western governments and rights groups.

"The kind of detentions of democratically elected members of parliament we are seeing in Turkey today is an assault on the right to political representation and participation for millions of voters and defies fundamental principles of any country that claims to be democratic and based on rule of law and human rights," Human Rights Watch's Turkey researcher Emma Sinclair-Webb said in a statement to reporters.

Meanwhile, a radical faction of the PKK, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), claimed on its website responsibility for a bomb blast on a police station on Friday morning in Diyarbakir that killed 11 people and wounded another 100. The government had previously blamed the PKK, but that claim was questioned on Saturday after the so called "Islamic State" (IS) claimed credit, according to the IS-linked Amaq news agency.

Watch video 00:55

Turkey: Videos show detention of Kurdish MPs

Ankara answers EU critics in roundtable meeting with ambassadors

Responding to criticism from European Union countries, including Germany and Denmark, Turkey's EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik summoned EU ambassadors to an unusual meeting Sunday where he will give an address "on the latest developments in our country," the ministry said in a statement.

Turkey's recent crackdown on political opposition and critical media outlets has triggered a damning progress report by the European Commission on its progress toward EU membership, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung" reported on Sunday.

The German newspaper said that the report, to be published on Wednesday, described "a significant relapse" in press freedom and said legal decisions over national security and the fight against terrorism were applied "selectively and randomly."

European officials have been increasingly critical of Turkey's crackdown on those it suspects of involvement in the attempted coup on July 15-16. More than 110,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants have been detained or suspended. Add the 170 newspapers, magazines, television stations and news agencies that have been closed, leaving 2,500 journalists unemployed, and there are concerns that Turkey is seriously backsliding in its commitment to parliamentary democracy.

Street demonstrations against the crackdown on pro-Kurdish politicians and critical media outlets have been met with heavy-handed force by riot police.

jar/jlw (AFP, Reuters)

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