Germany calls in Turkish diplomat over latest arrests

November 4, 2016 6:51 AM EDT

Demonstrators scuffle with riot police during a protest against the arrest of pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) lawmakers, in Ankara, Turkey, November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas


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BERLIN (Reuters) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Friday summoned the Turkish charge d'affaires over Turkey's arrests of Kurdish opposition lawmakers, foreign ministry officials said.

"The overnight arrests of politicians and lawmakers from the Kurdish HDP (Peoples' Democratic Party) represent a further drastic intensification of the situation in the eyes of the foreign minister," ministry spokeswoman Sawsan Chebli told a government news conference.

She said Ankara had a right to respond to a failed coup attempt last July and to fight terrorism. "But this cannot be a justification for silencing or even imprisoning the political opposition," she said.

A car bomb rocked Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey's largest city, on Friday, killing at least one person and injuring more than 40, security sources said, hours after police detained the leaders of the HDP.

The HDP is the biggest political party in the mostly Kurdish region and the second-biggest opposition group in the Turkish parliament. [L8N1D4AVT]

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert criticized the arrests and said they confirmed concerns first raised in May when the Turkish parliament stripped members of their immunity from prosecution.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Twitter she was "extremely worried" by the arrests and had called a meeting of EU ambassadors in Ankara.

Ali Etran Toprak, head of Germany's large Kurdish community, called on Berlin and its EU partners on Friday to stop cooperating with the Turkish government on refugees and halt EU membership talks with Ankara following the arrests.

Steinmeier's decision to summon a senior Turkish diplomat comes amid increasingly tense ties between Germany and Turkey.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday said Germany had become a haven for terrorists and accused it of failing to root out supporters of a U.S.-based cleric Ankara blames for July's failed military coup.

Erdogan said Germany had long harbored militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency for Kurdish autonomy, and far-leftists from the DHKP-C, which has carried out armed attacks in Turkey.

Steinmeier and other European officials have previously raised concerns about Turkey's detention or suspension of more than 110,000 officials in the wake of the failed putsch.

German officials said the historically close ties between the two countries and friendly relations among their citizens made it important to speak out about the latest arrests.

"That is why it is necessary to immediately inform the Turkish government about our position," spokeswoman Chebli told reporters.

(Reporting by Noah Barkin and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Richard Balmforth)



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