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Monday 20th
posted by Morning Star in World

Threats, violence, arrests await No campaigners

TURKEY’S Kemalist opposition have revealed the repression they face as they campaign against handing sweeping powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in April’s constitutional referendum.

Members of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) said they have experienced threats, violence, arbitrary arrest, exclusion by the media and even sabotage.

The Associated Press quoted CHP MP and former journalist Utku Cakirozer yesterday as saying: “Those who advocate a No vote are faced with a series of obstructions.”

Mr Cakirozer criticised Germany and the Netherlands for blocking Justice and Development Party (AKP) government ministers from campaigning for a Yes vote among the large diaspora there.

But he warned: “Our democracy bar has been lowered a great deal and needs to be raised rapidly.”

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) MP Sinan Ogan, who broke with his party to back the No campaign, alleged dirty tricks by his opponents.

“It’s either our electricity cut [during rallies] or leaflets torn apart, or [the rally venue] is being restored at the last moment, or the podium is attacked, or there is an interruption attempt so that we cannot speak,” he said.

“And even if you do speak, no TV station will air it.”

The allegations came a day after German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told weekly Der Spiegel: “Turkey is further away than ever before from EU membership.”

Mr Gabriel’s Social Democratic Party parliamentary group leader Thomas Oppermann said that Turkey’s chances of joining the EU would be “gone for good” if it reintroduced the death penalty in the wake of last July’s failed coup.

“Erdogan is clearly on the wrong path and he’s harming Turkish interests,” he said.

On Saturday Mr Erdogan’s office denounced Germany for allowing a rally in support of imprisoned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan on Kurdish New Year.

Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said: “We strongly condemn the German authorities for allowing the demonstrations by PKK terrorist supporters.”

The 30,000-strong rally in Frankfurt was organised by Kurdish diaspora organisation Nav-Dem, which Germany says is affiliated to the PKK.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry protested to the German ambassador over the event.

“Germany bans our ministers’ events in its country but allows for a terrorist organisation to organise an event in which slogans about an upcoming referendum in our country were chanted,” it complained.

“This is nothing but double standards. We condemn this insincere approach.”