Two lawmakers from Germany and Sweden have said Turkey blocked their entrance to the country for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) observatory mission for upcoming elections to be held on June 24.
Germany’s left-wing Die Linke party lawmaker Andrej Hunko said he was told by the OSCE’s Turkey representative that he could not enter the country, so he got off from a Turkey-bound flight from Vienna at the last moment on June 21.
Hunko said he was scheduled to help monitor the elections for the OSCE, as he has done in previous years.
He described the entry ban as an “unprecedented affront to international election monitoring” and blamed the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for the block.
Officials in Turkey had accused Hunko, in his Council of Europe observatory mission for the April 2017 constitutional amendment referendum, of having a biased position in favor of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), as Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu posted Hunko’s photograph with PKK flags on his official Twitter account.
“Can we expect impartiality from this person?” Çavuşoğlu said.
The PKK has been listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.
Hunko had said the photograph was from 2014 during the escape of Yezidi people from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq, and the photograph was taken in that context.
“It has nothing to do with the observatory election mission in Turkey. But it is not right to use it to depict me as a PKK sympathizer,” he said.
Sweden’s Green Party lawmaker Jabar Amin also said he was being held at Istanbul airport on June 21, where officials were planning to put him on a flight back to Stockholm.
“When I arrived at passport control, the security services were waiting for me. They took my passport and took me to another place,” he told Swedish news agency TT.
“It is unacceptable that an election observer has been prevented from entering Turkey. We have asked for an explanation from Turkish officials,” Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said.
The German Foreign Ministry said it and the OSCE were “in contact with Turkey and urging a lifting of the entry ban,” adding that the monitoring mission was in the service of “strengthening democracy and the rule of law.”
The OSCE, in a letter seen by Agence France-Presse, expressed its “disappointment” and said it “deplores” that mission members Hunko and Jabar had been banned, “reportedly based on their publicly expressed political opinions.”