Turkey defies justice and European values

by ECPMF staff

Political pressure is building on Turkey’s President Tayyip Recep Erdoğan after a series of decisions that cast doubt on the state of Turkey’s system of justice. In defiance of rulings by its own Constitutional Court, Turkey has refused to release jailed journalists. New judgements from the European Court of Human Rights have found the country in breach of Article 10, the right to freedom of expression. 

Turkey: Stop the purge, restore human rights! Turkey's President Erdogan. Photo: Andreas Lamm

The Constitutional Court ruled on Friday 12th January that journalists Mehmet Altan and Sahin Alpay should be released from jail. Press freedom campaigners were hoping this would set a precedent for other writers and reporters who are in detention. But in both cases the lower courts have refused to accept the decisions. Both writers remain behind bars.

On the same day, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg handed down two judgements against Turkey, stating that the country’s own justice system had acted in breach of Article 10 of the European convention on Human Rights – that is, the right to freedom of expression. Just a reminder: Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said in an interview earlier, that Turkey „of course“ would implement the decisions of the Strasbourg court.

ECPMF Legal Affairs Advisor Flutura Kusari comments:

"Turkey has become one of the most dangerous places in Europe for journalists. Independent and professional journalism is hardly possible and the authorities continue to violate the European Convention on Human Rights by jailing journalists without fair trial. International actors - governments and the non-governmental sector - should continue pressuring the Turkish authorities to respect the right to freedom of expression of journalists and help them with public support and legal aid."

And ECPMF joined a group of eight international press freedom campaigners in condemning the refusal by the lower courts to release the jailed journalists.

Meanwhile the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker made a strong statement on 12th January regarding the future of this candidate country which aspires to become a full member of the European Union.:

“Turkey is moving away from its European ambitions of the past and we are going to have to see what kind of progress Turkey makes in the coming months. But there will not be any kind of progress while there are journalists in Turkish jails,” said Mr Juncker.

According to the European Federation of Journalists there are currently 142 journalists in prison. Some are serving sentences but most are awaiting trial.

One of them is the Turkey correspondent of Germany’s Die Welt newspaper, Deniz Yücel.. He has spent almost a year behind bars - most of it in solitary confinement, without an indictment. In an interview conducted via his lawyer with the press agency dpa, he has stated that he does not want to be released as part of an arms deal between the two governments.

^“I don’t want to get involved in any dirty deal,Yücel said, following a report in Der Spiegel that his name had been mentioned by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel ahead of talks with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. After the meeting Gabriel stated “I in no way mixed Deniz Yücel with defence issues.“

The American pro-democracy movement Freedom House, has downgraded the status of Turkey from “partly free“ in 2016 to “not free“ in 2017.

And the UK Foreign Office has issued a new warning on 15th January 2018 on safety and security, advising against all but essential travel to 10 Turkish cities or within 10 kilometers of the border with Syria.