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EP urges immediate release of prominent Turkish rights activist/businessman

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Turkey Rapporteur for the European Parliament (EP) Kati Piri shared on Twitter a cross-party letter signed by members of the EP primarily involved in matters concerning Turkey urging the immediate release of prominent Turkish rights activist and businessman Osman Kavala, who was detained  by police at İstanbul Atatürk Airport on Oct. 18.

Members of the EP who signed the letter urged the immediate release of Kavala and said:

“We have been informed that Mr. Kavala was detained as part of a secret investigation and is being held at a counter-terror police department after an order was issued for him to be detained for seven days. Now that the deadline of his detention is in sight, we urge you to release him.”

The letter went on to slam Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, referring to his intervention in the judicial process and authoritarian influence:

“Before any judge has ruled in this case, President Erdoğan already publicly convicted him (Kavala) in a speech to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) parliamentary group on 24 October 2017. We strongly condemn this personal attack against Osman Kavala, who is a long-standing interlocutor of EU-Turkey relations. His detention represents a new low in the crackdown against civil society in Turkey.”

The EP letter ended with a general view on the deterioration of Turkish democracy:

“We, the undersigned Members of the European Parliament, call on the Turkish authorities to urgently release Mr Kavala and to take the necessary steps needed in order to address the serious crackdown in the areas of rule of law and fundamental rights and freedoms in the country.”

The signatories of the letter were Bas Belder, EP shadow rapporteur on Turkey; Anna Maria CorazzaBildt, MEP; TakisHadjigeorgiou, EP shadow rapporteur on Turkey; Rebecca Harms, MEP; Ska Keller, co-president of the Greens/EFA group; Kati Piri, EP rapporteur on Turkey; Marietje Schaake, MEP; Renate Sommer, EP shadow rapporteur on Turkey; Helga Trupel, MEP; Bodil Valero, EP shadow rapporteur on Turkey; and Gabriele Zimmer, president of the GUE/NGL group

Staunchly pro-government Turkish newspapers Yeni Şafak and Güneş on Oct. 20 accused Kavala of funding terrorist organizations and betraying Turkey.

In its front-page story on Friday Yeni Şafak launched a smear campaign against Kavala under the headline “Key Figure of Terror Fund” accompanied by a large photo of him.

Güneş claimed that Kavala was running a criminal organization that supported the Gezi Park “coup attempt,” which was actually a popular youth protest for the right to the city and further liberties, recognized the Armenian genocide of 1915, supported the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and allied with the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in their struggle against the increasingly authoritarian President Erdoğan.

European Parliament members, the US and France all criticized the detention of Kavala.

Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15 through government decrees issued as part of the state of emergency.

The Human Rights Association (İHD) reported on Oct. 16 that a total of 4,240 judges and prosecutors were dismissed by Turkey’s Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK).

Forty-eight private health companies were closed, and two were allowed to reopen. Some 2,350 private schools, courses and dormitories, 15 private universities, 19 unions and confederations, 1,412 association and 139 foundations were closed by the government under emergency rule.

Nine hundred sixty-nine private companies valued at TL 41 billion with a workforce of 47,000 were seized by the government.

One hundred eighty-five media companies were closed. Only 23 of them were allowed to restart operations. One hundred seventy-four journalists are still in prison, and 889 press cards were cancelled in 2016 alone.

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