Former ECtHR judge says Turkey cannot hold referendum under state of emergency

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Former European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judge Rıza Türmen said on Sunday that a referendum on April 16 in which Turkey will decide on a switch to an executive presidency must be postponed or should be held under equal conditions for both the “yes” and the “no” camps, including the lifting of the state of emergency.

Speaking during a conference organized by the Antalya Bar Association, Türmen said a democratic environment does not exist in Turkey in which to hold a referendum to make changes to the constitution.

Either the referendum must be postponed, or OHAL (state of emergency) must be lifted to create a democratic environment,” he said.

Following a failed coup attempt on July 15 of last year, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government declared emergency rule in Turkey.

The AKP issued a number of government decrees through which over 135,000 people, including thousands within the military, have been purged due to their real or alleged connection to the faith-based Gülen movement, which is accused by government of being behind the failed coup.

As of March 1, 93,248 people were being held without charge, with an additional 46,274 in pre-trial detention. A total of 7,316 academics were dismissed, and 4,070 judges and prosecutors were purged over alleged coup involvement or terrorist links.

Once the referendum on a constitutional reform package on April 16 is approved by the people, an executive presidency will be brought to Turkey, with the new system concentrating power in the hands of the president.

Many people believe the constitutional amendments to be voted in the referendum will pave the way for a one-man regime under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has already been criticized for being authoritarian as he has purged and jailed countless thousands of critical academics, politicians, teachers, doctors, officials, businessmen, artists and journalists.

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