The Latest: US condemns Turkey's detention of lawmakers

AP News
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Posted: Nov 04, 2016 3:31 PM
The Latest: US condemns Turkey's detention of lawmakers

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The Latest on an explosion and detentions in Kurdish areas of Turkey (all times local):

10:25 p.m.

The U.S. government says it's "deeply disturbed" by Turkey's detention of opposition members of parliament.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says the detentions follow Turkey's recent detention of the editor-in-chief of one of its most respected newspapers.

Earnest says Friday that senior U.S. officials have expressed these concerns to their Turkish counterparts. He acknowledges that Turkey has been rocked by deadly attacks but says Turkey has a "special obligation" as a democracy to reinforce public confidence in the rule of law.

Earnest says democracies become stronger by allowing diverse expressions of views, particularly during difficult times. He says suppressing fundamental freedoms is not an antidote to terrorism.

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9.20 p.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the car bomb attack in southeast Turkey and expressed concern over the detentions of pro-Kurdish legislators.

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for the secretary-general, said in an emailed statement that Ban was also concerned by media restrictions in the country.

Authorities on Friday detained 12 legislators of the People's Democratic Party, or HDP, for questioning over terror-related probes. Eight of them, including HDP's co-chairs, were formally arrested pending trial.

Earlier this week, authorities also detained the chief editor and senior staff members of a leading opposition newspaper for allegedly supporting terror organizations.

Dujarric said the secretary-general calls "on the Turkish authorities to make every effort to uphold fundamental rights and universal principles, including the freedom of expression, representation, independence of the judiciary, right to fair trial and strict adherence to due process, in line with Turkey's international obligations."

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7:10 p.m.

Turkey's foreign minister has rejected criticism from the European Union over his country's detention of pro-Kurdish lawmakers, and he renewed accusations that some European nations were providing support to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

Mevlut Cavusoglu said Friday that the pro-Kurdish legislators were not above the law, adding that the EU had no right to give Turkey "lessons concerning the superiority of the law and democracy."

Cavusoglu said: "I have never heard (an EU nation) tell the PKK to lay down its arms nor that it cannot go anywhere through terrorism. I have never encountered a country or an EU official who told the (pro-Kurdish party) to put a distance between it and the PKK."

Cavusoglu went on to accuse some EU nations of allowing the PKK to extort money or carry out fundraising on their territories, and of refusing to extradite PKK militants wanted by Turkey.

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6:25 p.m.

All three Scandinavian foreign ministers have summoned the Turkish ambassadors in Norway, Sweden and Denmark to explain the arrests of pro-Kurdish politicians.

Borge Brende, foreign minister of Norway, which is outside the European Union, says that although Turkey has the right to fight terrorism, it "does not justify gagging or even jailing opposition politicians."

His Swedish counterpart, Margot Wallstrom, says "the arrests could risk fueling the already existing tensions in the country."

In Denmark, Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen said Friday's arrests and earlier crackdown on activists and media outlets "has brought Turkey further away from Europe" and "obviously makes it more difficult to imagine Turkey as an EU member."

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5:15 p.m.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency has increased the death toll in Friday's car bomb attack in the mainly Kurdish southeast to nine.

Earlier, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim had said eight people— including two police officers— had been killed.

The attack in the largest mainly Kurdish city, Diyarbakir, came just hours after authorities detained at least 12 pro-Kurdish lawmakers for questioning in terror related probes.

The Diyarbakir governor's office said the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, claimed the attack, which Anadolu said was carried out with a minibus laden with a ton of explosives.

The blast caused a large crater near the police building and damaged several buildings and businesses nearby. Television footage showed people walking among glass and other debris near buildings with windows blown out.

Yildirim also said one of the assailants was "caught dead," but did not elaborate.

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5 p.m.

Turkey's state-run news agency says authorities have formally arrested five pro-Kurdish lawmakers, including the party's two co-chairs, who were among 12 detained on terrorism-related charges.

Anadolu Agency says People's Democratic Party, or HDP, co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag were put under arrest by court order on Friday and will be held in custody pending trial. Three other lawmakers— Nursel Aydogan, Leyla Birlik and Idris Baluken— were formally arrested earlier.

Meanwhile three of the 12 detainees, Sirri Sureyya Onder, Imam Tascier and Ziya Pir, were released by the court on condition they regularly report to authorities.

A total of 15 detention warrants were issued by public prosecutors. Two of the legislators were determined to be abroad, and authorities are still searching for one.

The others are in court waiting for their rulings.

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4 p.m.

Turkish police have clashed with demonstrators who took to the streets in four cities in protest of the detentions of pro-Kurdish lawmakers.

Riot police on Friday used tear gas and water cannons to disperse hundreds of people demonstrating in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Antalya.

The state-run Anadolu agency and other news reports said 10 people were detained in Ankara, five in Antalya and seven others were rounded up in Istanbul's Esenyurt and Kadikoy districts.

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2:50 p.m.

The European Union said Friday that the detention of 12 pro-Kurdish politicians combined with the lifting of parliamentary immunity of over 130 legislators in May "compromise parliamentary democracy in Turkey."

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini also said in a statement that the moves "exacerbate the already very tense situation" in southeastern Turkey.

In a joint statement with Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn, they said that EU "is gravely concerned" about the detentions.

Over the past months, the relations between the EU and Turkey, still a candidate for membership, have steadily worsened as events in the southeastern neighbor have opened it to increasing criticism that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has overstepped the boundaries of democracy.

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2:50 p.m.

Turkey's state-run news agency says a court has ordered a pro-Kurdish legislator formally arrested pending a trial.

The Anadolu Agency says a court in the southeastern city of Bingol ruled in the case of Idris Baluken, a senior lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party or HDP.

Baluken was among 12 HDP lawmakers detained for questioning early on Friday as part of ongoing terror-related investigations. One of them was released from custody on condition that he regularly report to authorities.

Authorities said the lawmakers were detained for ignoring orders to appear in court to testify in the probes.

The government accuses the HDP of being the political arm of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has fought an armed insurgency against the state for over three decades. The HDP rejects the accusation.

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1:55 p.m.

The German Foreign Ministry says a Turkish government representative in Berlin has been summoned for talks following the arrest of a dozen pro-Kurdish politicians.

Ministry spokeswoman Sawsan Chebli said Friday that Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier sees the arrests as a "drastic intensification of the situation" in Turkey.

She says nobody disputes Turkey's right to counter the threat of terrorism and deal with the aftermath of a bloody coup attempt, but it "should not serve as a justification for silencing the political opposition."

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert says the German government is "talking with our Turkish partners at all levels" about the issue.

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1:50 p.m.

A pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party, or HDP, legislator has condemned the detentions of 12 of his party colleagues, including both co-chairs, saying the operation is aimed at sidelining the HDP and creating an authoritarian Turkey.

Adem Geveri described the detentions as a "political genocide operation," telling The Associated Press that they "officially put an end to the functioning of Parliament in an anti-democratic and unlawful way."

Twelve HDP parliamentarians were detained on Friday for not testifying in court on terrorism-related charges, including co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag.

"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 added.

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1:30 p.m.

Several parties in the European Union legislature have strongly condemned the detention of 12 pro-Kurdish politicians by Turkish authorities over their refusal to testify in ongoing terror-related investigations.

Adding to the groundswell of protest over the actions, the S&D socialists, the second-biggest group in the EU parliament called it "very bad news from (hashtag)Turkey. Again," in a Twitter message.

Helga Truepel of the Greens group said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is turning the nation "into despotism" and called on the EU to react strongly.

Earlier Friday, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini already called on EU ambassadors to meet in Ankara and assess the way ahead.

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1:20 p.m.

The TurkeyBlocks monitoring network is reporting that access to various social media and messaging apps have been restricted as of 1:20 a.m. Friday, coinciding with the detentions of 12 pro-Kurdish politicians.

Users nationwide have been complaining about restricted access to various social media and messaging, including Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and Skype.

TurkeyBlocks confirmed the restricted access, saying its monitoring probes have identified "throttling at the ISP level as the source of the slowdowns, with the majority of internet users affected at the time of measurement."

Rights activists say restricting access to the internet is aimed at preventing calls for demonstrations.

Last week, internet access was periodically blocked in the southeast following the arrest of the co-mayors of the largest predominantly Kurdish city, Diyarbakir.

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12:50 p.m.

The European Union's foreign policy chief has expressed concern over the detention of 12 pro-Kurdish politicians by Turkish authorities over their refusal to testify in ongoing terror-related investigations.

Friday's overnight detentions included People's Democratic Party co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag.

EU commissioner for foreign affairs Federica Mogherini wrote on Twitter: "Extremely worried for arrest of Demirtas & other HDP MPs. In contact w/ authorities Called EU ambassadors meeting in Ankara."

Mogherini had also criticized last month the detention of the co-mayors of Turkey's largest predominantly Kurdish city, Diyarbakir, issuing a statement calling on Turkey to resume Kurdish peace efforts saying "a political solution is the only viable option."

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12:35 p.m.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says a car bomb attack in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir has killed eight people.

Yildirim said up to 100 people were hurt in Friday's blast but only seven of them remain in hospital.

The prime minister said those killed were two police officers, a technician and five civilians.

The prime minister also said one of the assailants was "caught dead" but did not provide details.

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11:55 a.m.

A large explosion, caused by a car bomb, hit the largest city in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast region on Friday, hours after authorities detained at least 12 pro-Kurdish legislators for questioning in terror-related probes.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said both police and civilians were killed in the attack but did not say how many. The state-run Anadolu Agency said one person was killed and some 30 others were wounded.

The blast occurred in Diyarbakir's Baglar district, near a building used by the riot police. The Diyarbakir governor's office said the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, had claimed the attack.

Anadolu said the attack was carried out with a minibus laden with a ton of explosives.