Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has accused the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) of funding terrorism and warned that anyone harming the nation would pay a price.
The comments came on Sunday, two days after the HDP’s leaders were arrested by Turkish police on terrorism-related charges.
“For years, we called on you to say you are against terror and terrorist organisations. You would not listen,” Yildirim said on Sunday in a televised speech.
“For years they transferred the money we sent for the municipalities to terror. Whoever harms this nation will pay for it, there is no other way. Not only those bombing and burning, but also those supporting terror.”
Turkish authorities arrested the co-leaders of HDP, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, on Friday.
Ten other HDP MPs were also detained, although some were later released.
The government accuses the HDP of links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an armed group that has waged a three-decade insurgency for Kurdish autonomy in which tens of thousands have died.
HDP, parliament’s second-largest opposition party, denies direct links to the armed group, which is deemed a “terrorist organisation” by the United States, the European Union, and Turkey.
The party says it is being targeted because it opposes President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s moves to expand his power through constitutional changes.
Partial boycott of parliament
HDP announced a partial boycott of parliament on Sunday following what it called the “darkest attack in the history of its democratic politics”.
“As a result of discussions we held with our parliamentary group and the central executive board, we have decided to halt our works in the legislature in the face of the most extensive and the darkest attack of our history and meet with our people once again,” Ayhan Bilgen, HDP spokesman, said after a party meeting in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır.
— HDP English (@HDPenglish) November 6, 2016
He added the party was not fully withdrawing from parliament and its deputies would remain members, but they would not take part in general assembly sittings or parliamentary commission meetings, Reuters news agency reported.
Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli told private broadcaster NTV that HDP’s decision to halt its participation would not have a negative effect on legislation.
‘Call me a dictator’
Erdogan, meanwhile, accused Europe of assisting terrorism with its support for the PKK, adding he did not care if Europe called him a dictator as he cracks down on the armed group and its sympathisers.
“Europe, as a whole, is abetting terrorism. Even though they declared the PKK a terrorist organisation, this is clear … We see how the PKK can act so freely and comfortably in Europe,” Erdogan said, also in a televised speech on Sunday.
“I don’t care if they call me dictator or whatever else, it goes in one ear, out the other. What matters is what my people call me.”
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”, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu agency reported.
Two HDP politicians wanted by Turkish authorities “attended and delivered speeches at a pro-PKK demonstration in Brussels on Saturday”, Anadolu said in a separate report.
TAK claims Diyarbakir bombing
Meanwhile, questions remained on who carried out a deadly bombing in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southern city of Diyarbakir.
Prime Minister Yildirim blamed the PKK for Friday’s attack outside a police headquarters after Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) said it carried it out.
On Sunday, the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), an offshoot of the PKK, also claimed responsibility for the blast that killed 11 people and wounded more than 100.
TAK said on its website that one of its fighters, Kamal Hakkari, blew himself up in a suicide attack in Diyarbakir in response to the “murderous policies” and “inexorable pressure” of the government in the southeast of the country.
The HDP had been targeted by several investigations in recent months, but Friday was the first time an MP currently serving in the parliament was arrested. The arrests follow a resolution by parliament earlier in the year allowing the immunity of MPs to be lifted.
Last week, Gultan Kisanak, HDP mayor of Diyarbakir, and co-mayor Firat Anli were arrested over alleged membership of the PKK.
In September, the government similarly removed 28 mayors and other administrators, mostly from the HDP, and appointed trustees in their place.
More than 110,000 civil servants, soldiers, police, judges and other officials have been suspended or detained since the July coup attempt in Turkey.
Scores of opposition media organisations have been shut down, including pro-Kurdish ones such as IMC TV, the Dicle news agency, and the Ozgur Gundem newspaper.