Kati Piri, the European Parliament’s rapporteur for Turkey, said on Tuesday during a speech in the European Parliament plenary that thousands of people have become victims of a “massive crackdown on all opposition voices” in Turkey, calling on the European Union to be “loud and clear” on the human rights situation in the country.
“We, in the Parliament, expect the EU to be loud and clear on human rights in Turkey. Not only because these are the values that our Union is based upon, and Turkey as a candidate should adhere to them. But also because we risk losing credibility and support by a majority of Turkish society if we don’t stand up for their rights in these dark times,” she said.
“Osman Kavala, Ahmet Şık and Selehattin Demirtaş are not the only innocent persons in jail in Turkey. While the perpetrators of the heinous coup attempt must be prosecuted and brought to justice, so many people became victims of the massive crackdown on all democratic opposition voices,” said Piri, in reference to a failed coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016, which the government accuses the faith-based Gülen movement of having masterminded, and the ensuing crackdown on alleged coup plotters and any opposition to the government or president.
Speaking about innocent victims in Turkey, Piri stated that “the numbers are mind-boggling – more than 150,000 people fired and over 50,000 imprisoned. But remember that all these people have a face, have a family, have friends who are hoping that a normalization is still possible.”
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and other civil servants since July 15. The interior minister announced on Dec. 12, 2017 that 55,665 people have been arrested. The following day the Justice Ministry said 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.
Piri also presented a picture of Turkey under the rule of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: “The state of emergency has led to a situation that the government can rule by decree – without parliamentary or judicial scrutiny. Every aspect in Turkish society has become securitized – meaning, that all who voice criticism against the governments’ policies, are being labelled as terrorist or terrorism supporters. With that, legitimate and peaceful opposition is being silenced – in real life and on social media. Last two weeks, almost 500 people were detained for peacefully opposing Turkey’s military operation in Afrin.”
“There is also a structural problem with the lack of independence of the judiciary,” Piri said, adding: “And how big that problem is, we could witness last month. First there was a ruling by the Constitutional Court in Turkey to release jailed journalists Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay, as their rights had been violated. And although the highest court’s orders were crystal clear, a local penal court decided to keep them in detention.”
The Constitutional Court ruled on Jan. 11 that the ongoing detention of Altan and Alpay was disproportionate and infringing upon their rights to liberty, freedom of expression and freedom of the media. However, two lower courts later refused to follow the high court’s ruling, and the journalists remain in prison. The two are charged with membership in a terrorist organization, abetting a coup against the government and attempting to destroy the constitutional order as well as links to the Gülen movement.
In reference to the jailed chairman of Amnesty International Turkey, Taner Kılıç, Piri said: “Last week, we could witness another travesty of justice. The wife and daughters of Turkey’s Amnesty International Chair were waiting in front of the gates of the prison in İzmir to welcome their loved one into their arms after an 8 month imprisonment. A judge had ruled earlier that day for his release on bail. But within a couple of hours, the same judge changed his mind and ordered his re-arrest.”
“And for all those people who have lost their jobs by decree, there is so far little hope for remedy. From one day to another, they have been labelled as terrorists and therewith socially excluded,” Piri said. “High Representative Mogherini, the EU is preparing a mini-Summit with Turkish President Erdoğan at the end of March. We could read in the papers that no preconditions have been put on the table. But I hope you can tell us what you expect as results from such a meeting.”
Top European Union officials will meet President Erdoğan in Bulgaria on March 26 to discuss EU-Turkey relations as well as regional and international issues, an EU spokesman said on Tuesday. The meeting in the city of Varna will take place against a background of hostility between Turkey and the bloc, and diplomats in Brussels acknowledged that the meeting had been agreed to only reluctantly by some on the EU side, according to a report by Reuters.