Turkish opposition opposes Europe resolution condemning Turkey’s treatment of opposition

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Thursday adopted a resolution on the worsening situation of opposition politicians in Turkey with 72 votes in favour, and 28 votes against, while eight members absented. Among those who voted against the measure were members of the Turkish opposition.

Turkish members of the PACE, from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the main opposition the Republican People’s Party (CHP), and the nationalist Good Party voted against the motion.

The four representatives of the CHP who voted against the resolution of the PACE, the parliamentary arm of the 47-nation Council of Europe, are Ahmet Ünal Çeviköz, Yunus Emre, Selin Sayek Böke, and Haluk Koç.

The PACE called on Turkish authorities to respect fully their rights and freedoms of expression, association and assembly in its preliminary meeting on Thursday. 

The assembly notably expressed its concern over 154 parliamentarians being stripped of their immunity in May 2016 which is said has affected disproportionately the mainly Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). 

The assembly criticised Turkey over restrictions on freedom of expression and the media, the detention and imprisonment of opposition parliamentarians, former parliamentarians and local elected representatives that it said has “obstructed or undermined the ability of opposition politicians to exercise their rights and fulfil their democratic roles both inside and outside parliament”.

The assembly expressed its concerns over the detention and imprisonment of opposition parliamentarians and former parliamentarians in Turkey, including former deputy and former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, deputy Leyla Güven, and former deputy and assembly member Ertuğrul Kürkçü.

Güven, who has been on indefinite hunger strike since Nov. 8 over Turkish authorities treatment to Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has been released by a Turkish court in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on Friday. 

The European parliamentarians also added that European Court of Human Rights in its November 2018 ruling had found that the detention of Demirtaş during two crucial election campaigns, namely the referendum and the presidential election in Turkey, had pursued the “predominant ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate.”

The assembly said that the replacement of over 90 elected mayors from the HDP by government-appointed mayors  had seriously undermined the functioning of local democracy, especially in southeast Turkey

The PACE noted that the worsening of the situation of opposition politicians took place in a context had been marked by continuous restrictive measures introduced by Turkish authorities to silence journalists, judges, prosecutors, lawyers, academics and other dissenting voice.

The assembly also called on Turkey to repeal Article 299 of the penal code on insulting the president and to amend Article 301 on denigrating the Turkish nation, state and republic

The European parliamentarians called Turkey to amend its anti-terror law and lower the 10 percent electoral threshold, which they said impedes the ability of the opposition to be represented in parliament.

The assembly called Turkey to finalise and implement a judicial reform plan and a human rights action plan in cooperation with the Council of Europe, while demanded a review of the constitutional reforms adopted in 2017 with a view to restoring proper balance of and effective separation between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of power. 

During what the Deutsche Welle Turkish called a tense session, the head of Turkish committee of PACE, Akif Çağatay Kılıç from the AKP, harshly criticised the resolution and said that HDP deputies were in prison for failing to denounce the PKK as a terrorist organisation and for praising it instead. 

“The HDP does not represent the Kurdish people, it is a left-wing populist party,” Kılıç said and asked European parliamentarians what they would do if Turkey said Islamic State (ISIS) and al Qaida were not terrorist organisations.