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Statement by Chair and Rapporteur on fight against COVID-19 in Turkey

Turkey: non-discriminatory release of prisoners in fight against COVID-19

MEPs express their solidarity and support for the increasing efforts to fight the pandemic in Turkey

European Parliament's standing Rapporteur on Turkey, Nacho Sánchez Amor (S&D, ES), and Chair of the European Parliament's Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, Sergey Lagodinsky (Greens/EFA, DE), said:

"We would like to express our solidarity with the Turkish people in these difficult times.

Whatever the state of play of our political relationship, we are all on the same side in this and we need to act together to fight the pandemic. We call on the European Commission and the member states to include Turkey in the efforts that the EU is making in this combat, also by mobilising funds from the EU Solidarity Fund or other instruments to help Turkey, if Ankara requests this.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. We welcome the Turkish government's plan to substitute prison time with alternatives such as early parole or house arrest, which could apply to up to 100.000 inmates. This measure is in line with the recent call made by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to all governments.

However, it is crucial to apply this in a non-discriminatory and objective way, based on health criteria and on the risks that released prisoners may pose to society.

In Turkey, there are currently hundreds of journalists, lawyers, judges, prosecutors, politicians, academics, human rights defenders, artists and others who are in pre-trial detention or serving sentences without evidence that they committed any violent act or crime. To exempt them from the early release measures would represent an aggravated punishment and unjustified unfair treatment, as they do not represent any risk to public security. We urge the Turkish authorities to follow the call made by the UN High Commissioner and release every person detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting political views".

Statement of the Chair: Kavala's Detainment Another Blow for Bilateral Relations

On 18 February 2020, businessman and intellectual Osman Kavala was arrested on new grounds, only hours after the Turkish court at the high-security prison in Silivri had acquitted him and eight other defendants in the so-called Gezi trial.

Sergey Lagodinsky, Chair of the European Parliament delegation to the EU-Turkey JPC, comments:

"Osman Kavala's renewed detainment is another tragic disappointment for him, his family and all those who had continued to hope for Turkey's return to democracy.

The disappointment is bitter, but it is little surprise. As in many other cases like those of Ahmet Altan or Selahattin Demirtaş, the Turkish judicial authorities opted for an inhumane path. No judicial reform packages can conceal the essential problem: the relationship between real or false security concerns and civil rights is out of balance. Any anti-terrorist policies of the Turkish government exceed the limits of the acceptable once they violate human and civil rights.

It is time to return to the unconditional rule of law and to implement comprehensive judicial and legislative reforms. The Kavala case shows that we are not getting anywhere with hopes for individual "reasonable judges" or "good will" from the rulers. The only way forward is Turkey's systemic return to the principles of rule of law and judicial independence.

My thoughts are with Osman Kavala, his family and friends. We will not give up and will continue to fight for his freedom and the freedom of all those unjustly imprisoned and persecuted in Turkey. It is difficult to imagine any normalisation of relations with Turkey before their rights have been fully reinstated."

Background: In their pleadings in the beginning of February, the prosecutor had requested life-long sentences for Osman Kavala and two other defendants, as well as sentences between 15 and 20 years for several other defendants. Mr Kavala has been detained since November 2017, being accused of "attempting to overthrow the government" in the context of the Gezi Park protests in 2013. On 10 December 2019, the European Court of Human Rights recognized Mr Kavala's detention as arbitrary and ordered his immediate release.

Statement by leading MEPs on the acquittal of the Gezi Park protesters

Statement by leading MEPs on EU-Turkey relations following Tuesday's acquittal by a Turkish court of nine of Istanbul's detained Gezi Park protesters, including cultural patron Osman Kavala.

"We welcome today's important and positive decision by a Turkish court to acquit the defendants of the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Istanbul, including cultural patron and philanthropist Osman Kavala. We also welcome the announcement that arrest warrants will be lifted for seven other defendants being tried. However, difficult issues remain. This decisive moment must now be followed up by meaningful steps in restoring the rule of law and the further credibility of the Turkish justice system".

The statement was co-signed by the Chair of the European Parliament's Subcommittee on Human Rights Maria Arena (S&D, BE), the Chair of the European Parliament's Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee Sergey Lagodinsky (Greens/EFA, DE) and the European Parliament's Standing Rapporteur on Turkey Nacho Sánchez Amor (S&D, ES).

More information

Members of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights also discussed the worsening situation of artists, journalists, academics and lawyers in Turkey, on Tuesday morning. During the meeting, they took stock of the latest developments with regard to the human rights situation in the country, including of the notorious Büyükada trial, which will have its final trial hearing at the Istanbul Palace of Justice on Wednesday morning. This case concerns eleven Turkish lawyers who have been detained for allegedly assisting a terrorist organisation and for being members of such an organisation.

During the debate, MEPs also restated that they strongly condemn the use of the Turkish justice system for political purposes, discussed the situation of academia and journalists, and addressed the ongoing repression against several of the members of the famous Turkish Yorum music group, known for their political song writing, which have had terrorism-related charges brought forward against them.


Statement of the Chair on MEP denied right to monitor a trial in Turkey

Statement by the Chair of the European Parliament's Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee

On 13 February 2020, Turkish authorities denied Member of the European Parliament Özlem Demirel (GUE/NGL, DE) the right to monitor a court hearing in Ankara.

Sergey Lagodinsky (Greens/EFA, DE), the Chair of the European Parliament's Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, made the following statement:

"It is unacceptable that my colleague Özlem Demirel was denied the right to monitor the court hearing. So far, such observation visits have been common practice in our bilateral cooperation. I consider the order to my second deputy in the EU-Turkey delegation, Ms Demirel, to leave the court building, a crude departure from our common practice, a provocation and a covert personal threat. I strongly condemn my colleague being treated in this way.

Such incidents could further strain our bilateral parliamentary relations and ultimately destroy any remaining confidence in democratic culture in Turkey. The European Parliament and the German Federal Government must request a comprehensive clarification of the incident."


Background

Özlem Demirel travelled to Turkey in her capacity as a Member of the European Parliament and as an international observer in order to support the families of the victims and to monitor the trial following the bombing of a peaceful demonstration on 10 October 2015.

Statement of the Chair on Turkey's military action in Syria

On Wednesday, 9 October 2019 Turkish military forces have launched an offensive in Northern Syria.

Dr Sergey Lagodinsky, Chair of the Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee of the European Parliament, comments:

"I am deeply concerned about the humanitarian, geopolitical and bilateral costs of this intervention.

I recognize Turkey's legitimate security interests in the region, however this military operation will in no way advance peace in the region and will jeopardize the Turkish position in the long term.

We acknowledge the exceptional efforts that Turkey has demonstrated by hosting so many Syrian refugees. This is why the EU has been contributing to those efforts financially. However, we must ensure that the EU will not finance any resettlements of refugees outside of the Turkish territory. We should neither condone nor finance forceful demographic shifts in Northern Syria, especially those that come at cost of people who already had to flee their homes once.

The unilateral withdrawal of US troops is a strategic blow for the region and contains considerable spill-over risks for Europe. But the situation following the American announcement also proves the urgent need for a coherent, coordinated and effective common EU foreign and security policy. The fact that the EU never became a responsible political actor for peace in Syria proves that a lot of homework is to be done by the European Union itself.

The Turkish-EU relationship deserves a positive agenda. The invasion of Turkish troops in Syria is a serious disruption for any future partnership."

Interparliamentary delegations start establishing their bureaus

Delegations are electing their bureaus, each of them consisting of a Chair and two Vice-Chairs.

At the constitutive meetings on Thursday, 26 September, most of 44 interparliamentary delegations of the European Parliament decided on their Chairs and Vice-Chairs. Once the elections have taken place, the names of the new Bureaus' members will be published on the Delegations' website. (Check the respective homepage of each delegation.)

Interparliamentary delegations maintain relations and conduct policy dialogues with parliamentarians in other countries, regions and organisations to promote the EU's core values: liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law.

There are 44 standing interparliamentary delegations in this legislative period, the same number as in the last parliamentary term. Most of them have the same structure: they have a Chair and two Vice-Chairs, except for delegations to parliamentary assemblies (such as ACP, Eurolat, Euromed and Euronest), which are led by larger bureaus. Parliament's diversity in terms of geography and gender must be reflected in the composition of the bureau of each delegation; it shall not be permissible to have an all-male or all-female bureau or for both of the vice-chairs to come from the same member state (Rule 223 and Rule 213).