EP’s Pittella calls on Erdoğan to release all political prisoners immediately

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President of the European Parliament Socialists and Democrats Group Gianni Pittella gestures during a visit in support to the 65th day of a hunger strike in protest to decree-law on May 12, 2017 in Ankara. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

President of the European Parliament’s Socialists & Democrats Group Gianni Pittella on Friday said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is closing the door to Europe, calling on him to immediately release all political prisoners.

Paying a two-day visit to Ankara, Pittella attended the trial of pro-Kurdish Democratic Peoples’ Party (HDP) Co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, met with the other leading figures in the HDP and spoke with main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

Calling 100 cases launched against Demirtaş by Turkish authorities “not acceptable” in his statement following meetings in Ankara, Pittella said: “This repression of political opposition is happening alongside the mass imprisonment of journalists, judges, academics and soldiers, without charges and without any possibility of appeal.”

“We call on President Erdoğan to release Demirtas and all political prisoners immediately,” the S&D Group president said.

Recalling that the Socialists & Democrats have been the strongest supporters of Turkey’s European future and remain perhaps the last ones, Pittella underlined: “We still support this future. However, President Erdogan is making it impossible by turning Turkey into an increasingly authoritarian country. We are clear — Erdoğan is closing the door to Europe. For us democracy and human rights come first. ”

Pittella stressed that they will oppose any attempt to bargain on the issues of migration, the customs union and visa liberalization.

“Given the current democratic situation and the recent constitutional referendum, we have been forced to request the suspension of the accession talks. The way the amendments to the constitution are implemented will be crucial for the future of EU-Turkey relations.”

The S&D Group president also called on the CHP, HDP and all democratic opposition forces to assume the political and moral responsibility to put aside their differences and stand united for democracy.

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