European politicians continued to criticize long imprisonment and violations of fair trials in Turkey while demanding the government make necessary changes and slamming opposition parties for selecting deputy candidates who were arrested due to serious accusations of terror-related crimes.
“The duration of imprisonment [while people are on trial] must be shortened,” said Ria Oomen-Ruijten, the European Parliament rapporteur for Turkey to CNN Türk in an interview over the weekend. “Three years is too long. But, as a Dutch democrat, I am suspicious of why a person accused of a crime would be included on a candidate list. In my country, if you are accused of something as a deputy, then you must step down.”
Oomen-Ruijten was in Turkey as part of a six-member delegation from the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET), which held talks Thursday and Friday with top Turkish officials, including the president, ministers and political party members. Opposition parties criticized the government for not taking steps to free eight deputies who were still behind bars although they had been elected in the June 12 elections.
“I don’t understand including someone on the list to take advantage of political immunity and free them. I told this to both the Republican People’s Party [CHP] and the Peace and Democracy Party [BDP] during my meetings,” she said.
Five deputies from the BDP, two from the CHP and one from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) are still in prison due to their alleged links with terror-related crime gangs.
“In our meeting with the BDP, they told us they were proud of being part of the Constitution Conciliation Commission. If they distance themselves from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK], then I will nominate them for the European Peace Prize,” Oomen-Ruijten said, recalling the BDP deputies’ boycotting of Parliament during the summer.
Other subjects discussed during the meetings included “Turkey’s economic growth, its ambitions in a challenging neighborhood, freedom of expression including on the Internet, the rule of law and fair trials, human rights, as well as Cyprus,” said Marietje Schaake, member of European Parliament and the Dutch political party Democrats 66, to the Hürriyet Daily News following the delgation’s visit visit.
“My priorities will be to encourage Turkey to ensure the rule of law is upheld, that people get a fair trial and that freedom of expression and human rights more generally are not hampered by either the letter of the law or the application of laws,” she said.
Online and offline freedom
The process of entering the European Union should be a “national obsession,” but this is not the case in Turkey due to the government’s various other priorities, said Schaake. The new constitution that Turkey is working on, which is taking up most of the political agenda, can serve as a great opportunity for Turkey to address basic issues that the EU requires for membership.
“For Europe, the rule of law, due process, good governance, freedom of expression both online and offline are essential. Commissioner Stefan Füle has said he would underline the importance of press freedom and the rule of law to the top of the agenda of negotiations with each candidate EU member. I believe it could be a great opportunity to open chapter 23 [of the accession process] as soon as possible, which will allow negotiations on judiciary and fundamental rights,” she said.
Hürriyet Daily News reporter Sera De Vor contributed to this report.