European lawmakers have roundly condemned the Turkish government's crackdown on an opposition pro-Kurdish political party. Berlin summoned the Turkish envoy following the detention of senior Kurdish lawmakers.
The German Foreign Ministry said Friday that a Turkish government representative in Berlin has been summoned for talks following the arrest of a dozen pro-Kurdish politicians. Ministry spokeswoman Sawsan Chebli told reporters that German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier sees the arrests as a "drastic intensification of the situation" in Turkey.
Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen said he also summoned the Turkish ambassador to express his "grave concerns" over the arrests, while the French foreign ministry said the arrests were of "serious concern." EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said she was "extremely worried" and called a special meeting of EU ambassadors in Ankara.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said the German government is "talking with our Turkish partners at all levels" about the issue. He added that Berlin expected anyone arrested in Turkey to receive a fair trial.
Following bilateral talks with his British counterpart Boris Johnson, Steinmeier spoke more directly on the matter at a joint press conference.
"Nobody is questioning Turkey's right to protect itself from the threat of terrorism," he said, but warned that "the fight against terrorism should not be used to justify the silencing of all political opposition."
Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag, however, countered with his own accusations about justice for Turks living in Germany.
"Constitutional democracy and freedoms are only given to Germans," Bozdag said, adding that Germans should not be "teaching lessons" to Turkey.
"They must see and understand that the Turkish justice system is just as neutral and independent as the German one," he said.
Meanwhile, the US government and State Department issued separate statements expressing concern over the arrests in Turkey.
"When democracies pursue legal action against elected representatives, they must do so in a manner that reinforces the public's confidence in the rule of law," said State Department spokesmen John Kirby.
Crackdown on HDP turns up the heat
Twelve parliamentarians from the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) were detained on Friday for not testifying in court on terrorism-related charges, including co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag who were taken into custody from their homes. Turkish prosecutors accused the pair of spreading "terrorist propaganda," among other charges.
The arrests drew swift condemnation from the European Union as Turkey has detained or suspended more than 110,000 officials and is fighting a spiraling Kurdish militant insurgency in the southeast. "Very bad news from Turkey. Again. Now HDP members of parliament are being detained," the European Parliament's Turkey rapporteur, Kati Piri, said on Twitter.
Hours after the arrests of the HDP lawmakers, a car bomb killed at least eight people and injured 100 in Diyarbakir. The government blamed the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) for the attack. Television footage showed people walking among glass and other debris near buildings with windows blown out. Authorities imposed a temporary news blackout after the explosion, barring reports that could lead to public "fear, panic or chaos" and images showing the explosion and its aftermath.
In Germany, the head of an association representing Germany's Kurdish community called on Berlin and its EU partners to cease cooperation with the Turkish government on refugees and halt EU membership talks with Ankara following the arrests.
"(Ali Ertan) Toprak demands a halt to arms deliveries, a ratcheting up of the political pressure from the EU and NATO, the termination of the EU-Turkey refugee deal, an immediate stop to EU financial aid, and the suspension of EU membership talks," Germany's Kurdish community said in a statement.
The EU is engaged in delicate negotiations with Ankara. Since an agreement in March, Turkey has helped to all but end a flow of refugees and migrants to the EU via Greece after a million people arrived last year. But the agreement has also curtailed the amount of criticism and pressure Brussels can levy at Ankara in fear that the deal could collapse.
For its part, the HDP, which represents Turkey's largest Kurdish minority in parliament, declared the detentions the end of democracy.
"The goal of these measures is to shut down the third-largest party in parliament. This is a dark day not only for our party but for all of Turkey and the region as it means the end of democracy in Turkey," the HDP said, vowing not to surrender to these "dictatorial policies".
Lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), including its co-leaders Figen Yuksekdag, left, and Selahattin Demirtas were detained in an unprecedented crackdown Friday, November 4, 2016.
Adem Geveri, an HDP lawmaker, told The Associated Press that with Kurds denied representation in the parliament, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) would move further towards single-party rule.
"Now with the HDP removed from the political equation, they will go to an early election and establish an authoritarian Turkey without the HDP, without any democratic opposition," Geveri said.
ls,jar/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)