Erdogan rejects international criticism over opposition arrests

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Turkish President Recep Erdogan on Sunday rejected international criticism of his government over the arrest of politicians from the opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

Accusing the HDP of being the political arm of the banned militant Kurdish Workers’ Party, Erdogan said he did not care about criticism from abroad.

“It doesn’t bother me at all whether they call me a dictator or anything like that.

“It just goes in one ear and out the other. Important is what my people say,” he said.

Speaking about the arrested HDP members, he said: “When they don’t act like parliamentarians but like terrorists, they will be treated like terrorists.”

Erdogan also renewed accusations against the European Union of providing shelter to the PKK, although the group is also on the EU’s list of terrorist organisations.

On Friday, HDP chairmen Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, and seven other HDP members of parliament were arrested on a variety of terrorism-related charges.

Following the arrests, multiple foreign ministries in Europe called in Turkish diplomats for explanations and Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, said she was “gravely concerned” by the detentions.

The government had already removed the elected mayors of more than two dozen Kurdish municipalities including in Diyarbakir in South-Eastern Turkey, which is seen as the cultural capital of the Kurds and replaced them with loyalists.

The HDP on Sunday said it would boycott parliamentary meetings following the arrests.

Speaking from Diyarbakir, the HDP said it would firstly withdraw from all legislative procedures following what it called the “blackest attack in the history of its democratic politics”.

“The party would no longer take part in plenary meetings or parliamentary committees,’’ HDP lawmaker Ziya Pir said.

It was possible that the party would renounce its 59 seats in the legislature, he said, although further discussions would take place within the party.

Turkey’s EU Minister Omer Celik called for a meeting of European ambassadors in Ankara following the latest arrests.

The working breakfast on Monday would cover the “latest developments,” state news agency Anadolu reported.

In June 2015 the HDP became the first Kurdish party in Turkey to pass the 10 per cent threshold and be elected to parliament.

More than 1,000 officials linked to the HDP have been arrested since last year, the party says.

The party said it is being targeted because it opposes Erdogan’s plans to expand his power through constitutional changes. (dpa/NAN)

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