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World Leaders Condemn Turkey's Arrest Of Kurdish Lawmakers

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has launched a widening crackdown on dissent since a failed coup against him in July.

World leaders have strongly condemned Turkey's arrest of a dozen Kurdish lawmakers in a widening crackdown on dissent since a failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Early on November 4, Turkey jailed, pending trial, the co-leaders of parliament's third-largest party, the Peoples' Democratic Party or HDP, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, as well as 10 other lawmakers from the same party. Three were later released.

The arrests followed the detention or suspension of more than 110,000 officials since the coup attempt in July, and "go beyond what is permissible," the United Nations human rights office said.

The White House said it was "deeply disturbed" by the arrests of lawmakers, while Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark summoned Turkish diplomats over the detentions.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz said the actions "call into question the basis for the sustainable relationship between the EU and Turkey."

But Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim insisted the arrests were legal, even as Turkish police raided and searched the HDP party's head office in Ankara and blocked access to HDP headquarters.

"Turkey is a nation of laws, nobody has preferential treatment before the law... What's been done is within the rule of law," he said.

The Kurdish lawmakers were arrested after they refused to give testimony in a probe linked to what the government termed "terrorist propaganda."

"Politics can't be a shield for committing crimes," Yildirim said.

The HDP party made history last year by becoming the first Kurdish party to win 10 percent of the vote and enter parliament. It warned that the detentions risk triggering civil war with Turkey's 15 percent minority Kurdish population.

The HDP on Twitter called on global leaders "to react against the Erdogan regime's coup."

"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," it said.

'Judicial Theater'

The arrested party leader Demirtas said he does not fear "a fair and impartial judiciary," but believes the courts have lost their independence and the cases against party legislators are "judicial theater...ordered by Erdogan."

The HDP said the charges are politically motivated and Kurdish lawmakers are being targeted because the party opposes Erdogan's efforts to change the constitution and give himself new powers at the expense of parliament, weakening checks and balances.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Tom Malinowski said on Twitter that he was "deeply troubled" by the arrests.

"When taking legal action against elected reps, democracies have a higher duty to justify actions and preserve confidence in justice," he added.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said she was "extremely worried" by the detentions, and raised her concerns in a telephone call with Turkey's foreign and EU affairs ministers late on November 4.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Ankara had a right to fight terrorism, but could not use it to justify gagging opponents.

"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," said Human Rights Watch's Turkey director, Emma Sinclair-Webb.

The leader of Turkey's main opposition group, the Republican People's Party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, warned that the detentions will "butcher democracy" in the country.

Erdogan and the ruling AK party accuse the Kurdish party of having links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Kurdish militant group that has waged an insurgency against the government for decades.

The HDP denies any direct links and says it is working for a peaceful resolution to the Kurdish conflict. Among those arrested were the party's negotiators seeking to forge peace between the PKK and the government.

Even before arresting the lawmakers, Turkey had removed dozens of elected HDP mayors from office and replaced them with trusted Ankara loyalists.

In a video message after the lawmaker arrests, one of the PKK's top commanders, Murat Karayilan, said the group would intensify its armed struggle against Turkey and called on all Kurds -- the country's largest minority -- to react.

With reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, and Reuters
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