Extension of state of emergency in Turkey does not ensure free and fair elections, Commissioner Hahn says

The extension of the state of emergency in Turkey will certainly not help to ensure free and fair elections in June, European Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn said Friday addressing a Conference on Press Freedom in Turkey, at the European Parliament.

Hahn said in his speech that despite the many appeals and recommendations of the international community, the crackdown on freedom of expression is ongoing at a large scale, in Turkey.

It is simply unacceptable that so many journalists, human rights defenders, academics and even freely elected members of Parliament are in jail the Commissioner said and added that unfortunately, the facts on the ground clearly show the disproportionality of the reactions following the attempted coup in 2016.

According to the Commissioner, currently there are around 500 trials against journalists. Hanh said that the contrast between the thin grounds on which the indictments are based – and the extreme severity of the sentences handed down by the courts, is striking. The presumption of innocence seems not to be respected at all, he noted.

The Commissioner expressed deep concern about the erosion of the independence and impartiality of the Turkish judiciary.

I know that we all want the same thing: a stable, secure, economically successful, open and democratic Turkey. And for this, we need to keep channels open for regular exchanges. The very serious issues detailed in our 2018 report on Turkey are a call for an even deeper dialogue. The event today, jointly organized by the European Parliament and European Commission, is a demonstration that the EU is not simply turning its back on Turkey, and especially not on its citizens who deserve support Commissioner Hahn noted.

It is crystal-clear, he said, that to improve our relations, Turkey will have to credibly address the serious backsliding on human rights, the rule of law, democracy and fundamental freedoms, including media freedom.

To this end, he added, the EU will continue to insist that the most problematic legislation, starting with the disproportionate provisions of the State of Emergency rule and anti-terror laws, are addressed without delay and in line with the recommendations made by the Venice Commission. We can only regret that the State of emergency was further extended in spite of our repeated calls for its lifting. It will certainly not help to ensure free and fair elections in June.

Concluding, Hahn stressed that the European Union has by no means abandoned the Turkish people and that it will keep engaging with the country for the sake of its citizens and those who share European values.

Source: Cyprus News Agency