Turkey accuses European poll watchers of supporting terrorism

President Erdogan pointing his fingers at Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and YPG flags at a rally where Danish lawmaker Nikolaj Villumsen, part of the poll watchers' delegation, held a speech.

Turkish politicians and press slammed European poll watchers observing Turkey’s referendum on Sunday for allegedly “supporting terrorism.”

The poll watchers were part of a joint mission from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

State-run Anadolu Agency reported that Danish lawmaker Nikolaj Villumsen, who served on the PACE observation team and belongs to the left-wing Enhedslisten party, had tweeted support of the arrested members of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) on 13 November 2016, and posed on a picture with his party colleagues holding photos of imprisoned HDP lawmakers.

Villumsen and his party had also helped raise money for the People’s Protection Units (YPG) to combat the Islamic State (IS) in Syria. Turkey, along with Qatar, considers the YPG a terrorist organisation and an extension of the PKK despite the support provided to the YPG by the United States and other coalition nations.

In a TV-interview with Al Jazeera, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held up a picture of Villumsen participating in a 2014 rally in support of the Syrian Kurds, then under heavy attack by IS.

Villumsen stated on Twitter that he was “happy that the media of Erdogan had discovered [his] support for the HDP and the struggle of the Kurds against IS in Syria.”

Andrej Hunko of the German Left Party (Die Linke) and a member of the PACE-OSCE delegation to Turkey, was targeted by press following Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s tweet picturing the lawmaker holding a PKK flag at a rally in Cologne in October 2014.

The foreign minister also tweeted a picture of Hunko in front of a ‘no’ banner.

The German lawmaker issued a statement on what he called “the campaign to delegitimise Andrej Hunko,” in which he compared the statements on him to the methods “used in recent months as justification for the mass arrests and dismissals in Turkey.”

Hunko said that while individual observers, though always bound by basic democratic values, are never “neutral”, delegations are composed of members from all political camps and thus politically balanced.

The German lawmaker also stated that the picture of him holding the PKK flag had been taken “in protest against the criminalisation of the symbols of the PKK and many other Kurdish organisations”.

“The rally in Cologne was not an expression of sympathy with the PKK, but instead of protest against the ban of the symbols of various Kurdish organisations, including the PKK. At the time, the organisation‘s Syrian branch had just saved the lives of tens of thousands of Yazidi people, threatened with genocide by the ‘Islamic State,'” Hunko said in the statement.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed the critical report by the OSCE on the country’s Sunday referendum. The OSCE report on Monday said a “lack of equal opportunities, one-sided media coverage and limitations on fundamental freedoms” had created an “unlevel playing field” in Turkey’s referendum.

The Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Michael Georg Link, has said a recount of the votes in Turkey’s referendum will strengthen confidence in the legitimacy of the vote.