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Turkey bars international observers from opposition leader's trial

International observers were blocked from opposition leader Figen Yuksekdag’s court hearing in Ankara by the Turkish state today in a “political decision” to hide the crimes they are committing in a sham trial against democracy.

A delegation from Britain organised by the Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign joined embassy staff from a number of countries including Germany, Sweden and Canada as Ms Yukeskdag’s trial on trumped up charges of terrorism began.

But they were stopped at a checkpoint outside the Sincan Prison complex where they were told by police that all foreigners were being denied entry to the court room as they had not been approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

International observers have been banned from attending all previous hearings and have been branded terrorist sympathisers by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Official complaints were raised by the embassy staff present at yesterday’s hearing with spokesman for the German embassy Robert Dolger expressing concern at undemocratic attempts by the Turkish government to hide its actions.

In a joint statement diplomats from Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and the EU delegation said the refusal to admit them to the hearing was “a clear breach of Turkish law and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.”

It concluded: “This situation is unacceptable and bodes ill for the current state of the rule of law in the country.”

British delegate Tommy Murphy from the Unite union told the Morning Star: “Today we have witnessed the dark clouds of oppression as the Turkish state are trying to hide the crimes they are committing in a sham trial. I didn’t expect to be allowed into today’s hearing but I was hopeful.

“This shows how far they have gone and Erdogan clearly believes he doesn’t have to answer to the international community. But there is no democracy in Turkey and there won’t be as long as Erdogan clings onto power.”

Ms Yuksekdag faces life in prison spent in solitary confinement if convicted on charges of terrorism relating to speeches given in the Turkish parliament. Many say she is singled out for more severe punishment as she is a woman and, as she is ethnically Turkish, represents a link between Turks and Kurds.

She appeared in the specially built prison courtroom and explained she was giving a political defence. “I cannot be judged for doing my duty. A prosecutor does not have the right to criminalise my words.

“There is no convincing explanation for our imprisonment,” she told the court.

“But I don’t want freedom for myself,” Ms Yuksekdag said, “I want freedom for Demirtas. Demirtas must be released to be able to campaign freely in the election.”

Mr Demirtas has been selected as the HDP presidential candidate for the June 24 elections. He is currently in prison facing terrorism charges with prosecutors seeking a 142-year jail term. The party has applied for his release from prison with a decision due this week.

Turkey goes to the polls for presidential and parliamentary elections next month in what has been described as a “landmark vote” with a choice between “freedom and democracy or dictatorship and war.” The snap election was called by Mr Erdogan as Turkey faces an economic crisis and criticism over its human rights record. Oppression against opposition parties is escalating with HDP officials telling the Star that meetings are being shut down and activists arrested across Turkey.

Ms Yuksekdag’s trial was adjourned until July 6.

 

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