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97 NGOs express concerns about election security amid mass detention of Kurds

Diyarbakir detentions

A total of 97 civil society and business organizations have in a joint statement said they have concerns about the security of Turkey’s May 14 elections following the recent mass detention of more than a hundred Kurds that included politicians and journalists, the Gazete Duvar news website reported on Thursday.

Election security has been a significant concern in Turkey, with various issues arising during past elections. The concerns involve potential political interference in the operations of Turkey’s Supreme Board of Elections (YSK) and the state-run Anadolu news agency, which could affect the fairness and transparency of elections, as well as the announcement of results, the allegations of harassment, intimidation and even violence against opposition candidates and supporters, and worries about the accuracy and transparency of voter registration and ballot-counting processes.

“The harassment and obstacles created by the judiciary during the election campaign increase our concerns about election security,” the organizations on Wednesday said in a written statement, referring to a recent operation targeting a large number of Kurds.

On April 25 more than 120 people, including lawyers, journalists, politicians and representatives of civil society organizations were detained in 21 provinces across Turkey as part of an investigation carried out by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Four of the detainees, all journalists, were arrested after appearing in court on Thursday.

State media TRT said the detentions, which came just three weeks before a tight election that could extend President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s two-decade rule, were conducted as part of a “counterterrorism” operation.

The voters’ equal access to information related to elections, their freedom to vote of their own free will without facing any pressure or coercion and all parties and candidates participating in the elections with equal opportunities are listed in the statement as the “fundamental criteria for the legitimacy of elections.”

The organizations also called on authorities to take the necessary measures to ensure “democratic” elections, have the investigation targeting Kurds completed quickly and release all the people who were detained as part of it earlier this week.

The signatories of the statement included the Diyarbakır Bar Association, the Diyarbakır branch of the Human Rights Association (İHD), the Association of Lawyers for Freedom (ÖHD) and the Mesopotamia Language and Culture Research Association (MED-DER), some of whose members are among the detainees.

In its report on Tuesday’s operation, TRT also said police had detained people suspected of financing the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or luring new members to the group. It also involved suspects who allegedly transferred money to the PKK from municipalities held by Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), TRT said.

The HDP — the second-largest opposition party in parliament — is widely seen as a kingmaker in the tight race.

Erdoğan has often accused the HDP of alleged links to the PKK, which the party denies.

The HDP said last month it would not field a presidential candidate in the May 14 elections, giving tacit support to Erdoğan’s main rival, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

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