Turkey accuses EU official of PKK membership over questions about torture

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Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag asked a pro-Kurdish lawmaker on Saturday if the European Parliament rapporteur Kati Piri was a member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The Minister was contesting allegations of torture in Turkish prisons as raised by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Meral Danis Bestas.

Bozdag called the allegations “lies, lies.”

Bestas cited the last week report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur Nils Melzer who noted a rise in torture and ill-treatment by security forces and prison authorities in the aftermath of the unsuccessful mid-July coup attempt.

The exchanges between the two were live televised on the TBMM TV, Turkish state TV that broadcasts parliamentary sessions and shared on HDP’s Twitter page.

“Mister Minister of Justice claims we are lying and smearing. We think the big crime is the denial of torture allegations. Because now in Turkey at prisons and detention centers torture is systematically committed,” said the HDP lawmaker.

Bestas gave the example of a Gunay Dag, a lawyer who guards of an Istanbul prison attacked, breaking his left arm and head in October as he was visiting a client.

She also said newspaperman Semih Elitas, imprisoned for distributing the now-shuttered Kurdish daily Azadiya Welat in the city of Manisa, faced regular beatings at a prison there.

Bestas asked the Minister if he ordered solitary confinement for her party’s imprisoned co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, as she demanded to know why the EP rapporteur Piri would not be allowed to visit them.

“Who is Kati Piri, a member of the organization,” rebuked Bozdag, implying the banned PKK which is fighting a decades-long guerrilla war against Turkish troops over government’s repression of Kurdish cultural rights and political demands.

Piri was previously accused of racism by Turkish EU Minister Omer Celik for her call for a freeze of EU accession talks with Turkey.