EP draft report on Turkey details serious rights violations suffered by Gülen followers

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A draft report on Turkey prepared by the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee and released on Dec. 21 emphasizes serious human rights violations that supporters of the faith-based Gülen movement have been experiencing both in Turkey and abroad.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) labels the movement, inspired by Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen, as a terrorist organization and accuses it of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt, although the group strongly denies involvement in the attempted coup or any terrorist activities.

As part of a crackdown that escalated following the abortive putsch, the AKP government removed over 130,000 civil servants from their jobs and detained 292,000 people while jailing 96,000 others on terror charges due to their links to the faith-based movement, according to official data.

While the deterioration of fundamental freedoms in Turkey had started years before the 2016 coup attempt, the situation worsened during a state of emergency declared after the failed coup, the MEPs stated, noting with “deep concern” that the impact of the state of emergency on democracy and fundamental rights continues to be strongly felt despite its lifting in July 2018.

The EP also expressed deep concern about the fact that mere affiliation with the Gülen movement is considered by the judiciary and the government sufficient to convict people of membership in a “terrorist organization” in the draft report, which included 10 points detailing the ruling AKP’s unlawful practices targeting the faith-based group.

“Torture and ill-treatment incidents by police continue to take place, mainly targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement,” the MEPs said, stating deep regret that Turkey’s “repressive form of rule has now become a deliberate, relentless, systematic state policy, which targets the alleged participants of the Gülen movement and extends to any critical activities.”

“Many civilians are still being held in prisons for mere practice of fundamental rights due to their alleged links to the Gülen Movement,” the draft report said, referring to Ahmet Altan, Ayşenur Parıldak and Hanım Büşra Erdal, who are among the more than 120 journalists currently behind bars in Turkey.

The EP also condemned the closing down of media outlets linked to the movement, including Samanyolu TV, Yumurcak TV, the Zaman newspaper, the Özgür Gündem newspaper, the Cihan News Agency and Burç FM, expressing serious concern about the measures curtailing freedom of expression and access to information and urging Turkey to guarantee media freedom as a matter of priority.

The EP also called on Turkey to “abide by a zero-tolerance policy to torture and effectively investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment in police custody or in prison, particularly against people with alleged ties to the Gülen movement,” referring to the disappearance of former public sector worker Yusuf Bilge Tunç, who was reported missing in August 2019.

The MEPs also strongly condemned “forced extraditions, kidnapping and abduction of Turkish citizens residing outside Turkey on the sole basis of their alleged links to the Gülen movement” and urged the EU to address the “worrying” practice in its own member states, notably in Bulgaria.

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