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Politics

Turkey slams UN for 'politically-motivated' interference in referendum

A group of UN human rights observers have criticized a nationwide crackdown on civil society after a failed coup. Turkey accused the experts of interfering in a referendum that may consolidate power into the presidency.

Turkey's foreign ministry on Thursday accused the UN of meddling in its internal politics ahead of a nationwide referendum to consolidate executive powers into the presidency slated for Sunday.

Foreign ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu said a "politically-motivated" statement by UN observers criticizing a crackdown in the wake of the failed coup last year was "incompatible with the spirit of cooperation in the UN."

"The fact that the statement came right before the April 16 public vote and contained political comments strengthens the view that this approach is deliberate," said Muftuoglu in a statement.

Since July 16, 2016, when factions of the Turkish military attempted to forcefully remove President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from power, more than 134,000 civil servants have been dismissed and 1,000 schools closed by authorities for suspected links to banned groups.

Turkey also shuttered roughly 200 media outlets, which human rights and press freedom groups have criticized for undermining public debate.

'Major violations'

UN freedom of speech observer David Kaye and UN freedom of assembly observer Maina Kai, along with others, on Thursday published a statement criticizing the clampdown in the field of education and civil society through the use of state of emergency powers.

"Given the arbitrary and sweeping nature of the emergency decrees issued since July 2016, there is serious concern that such powers might be used in ways that exacerbate the existing major violations of economic, social and cultural rights," the UN observers said in a joint statement.

Backed by Erdogan, Turkey's parliament in January approved a series of constitutional amendments that would transform the country's political order into an executive-style presidential system.

If the "Yes" vote secures a victory in Sunday's referendum, it would mark the beginning of the largest overhaul of Turkey's political landscape in modern history.

Opinion polls published on Thursday showed the "Yes" vote winning by a narrow majority. However, the "No" camp has accused authorities of limiting its space to campaign ahead of the referendum.

ls/bw (Reuters, AP, dpa)

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