EU urges Turkey to ensure rule of law

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High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini (L) and Commissioner Johannes Hahn

The European Union on Friday expressed concern about recent judicial developments in Turkey, urging Ankara to ensure the rule of law.

“The reversal of the court decision to release Amnesty International Turkey Chair Taner Kılıҫ and the detention of the members of the Executive Committee of the Turkish Medical Association are the latest examples of the worrying developments undermining the rule of law and independence and impartiality of the judiciary in Turkey,” European Commission’s High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Johannes Hahn said in a written statement.

“The non-implementation of judgements, including the recent Constitutional Court ruling and continued detention of two journalists, in addition to the undermining of the rule of law, risks setting an unfortunate precedent as it casts serious doubts about the existence of effective legal remedy,” said Mogherini and Hahn.

“The European Union expects the Turkish authorities to ensure that the Constitutional Court decision of 11 January 2018 is implemented and that the journalists are released without delay. Concrete and lasting improvements in the area of rule of law and fundamental freedoms remain essential to the prospects of EU-Turkey relations.”

The Istanbul 35th High Criminal Court on Wednesday ordered the conditional release of Kılıç, who has been in prison since June 9 on terrorism charges. But he was detained again late on Wednesday when a prosecutor appealed Kılıç’s release to the Istanbul 36th High Criminal Court. On Thursday, the Istanbul 35th High Criminal Court reversed its decision and ruled to arrest him again.

Rebecca Harms, together with other members of the European Parliament and the EP-Turkey Forum, on Thursday criticized the re-arrest of Kılıç, calling it “a travesty of justice.”

“We deeply regret this situation and call for an immediate review of the decision. We are witnessing unusual legal manoeuvres which are a reflection of the current dire state of the Turkish judicial system, as well as the erosion of rule of law and the separation of powers,” the EP members said in a statement.

The Constitutional Court ruled on Jan. 11 that journalists Ahmet Altan and Şahin Alpay be released, saying their rights had been violated. But İstanbul’s 26th and 13th High Criminal Courts on the evening of the same day refused to comply with the order to release.

Lawyers for the two journalists appealed the rulings to İstanbul’s 27th and 14th High Criminal Courts. Denying the requests, both courts upheld the decisions of the two lower courts.

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir on Jan. 17 called on Turkish authorities to ensure that the Constitutional Court decision on Altan and Alpay is implemented and that the journalists are released without further delay.

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