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EP rapporteur vows to fight for release of Kurdish opposition leader

The European Parliament’s (EP) rapporteur on Turkey, Kati Piri, vowed on Tuesday to fight for the release of jailed opposition leader, Selahattin Demirtas, in Turkey, where she claims authoritarianism prevails with help from the European Union (EU).

Piri, a Dutch member of the EP from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats and  EP rapporteur on Turkey, has sworn to fight in favor of Demirtas, the jailed former leader of the pro-Kurdish opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP), until he is back at home with his family, if she is re-elected as an EP member again in the new term.

HDP’s Demirtas has been imprisoned since 2016 on varying terrorism charges. Calls for his release have been ignored by the ruling Turkish government.

“EU silence is strengthening Erdogan’s authority”

“What I have seen is that the EU’s silence [against the violation of the rule of law and human rights in Turkey] has been strengthening [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s authority. As the EU becomes silent, Erdogan thinks that he can do whatever he wishes. We must, therefore, raise our voices in the EP against that [situation]. We must carry on criticizing not only the Turkish state, but also the EU governments, which have remained indifferent to what has been happening in Turkey,” Piri said.

Known as an outspoken critic of Erdogan, Piri has demanded a formal suspension of accession talks with the country in the latest regular annual EP Turkey Report, drafted by herself. Piri’s draft report was adopted in the Plenary of the EP on March 13, 2019.

Through its decision, the EP has called on member states to formally suspend accession negotiations with Ankara, due to a stark regression in the area of the rule of law and human rights in the country over the last few years.

“EP report biased and unfair”

In response, Ankara called the EP report “biased and unfair”, attributing no value to “unilateral and subjective stance” of the EP.

Speaking to pro-Kurdish ANF news, Piri mentioned the upcoming European Council (EC) meeting in June, referring to what she calls pragmatic approaches of the EU leaders who have been promoting dialogue with Turkey over some fields of common interest, such as the fight against terrorism, the economic crisis, and refugees.

“We will see what the EU leaders will do [decide] in June [in the EC meeting]. The EP’s call for ‘formal suspension of accession talks’ will be covered during the meeting. We have taken the decision in the EP by a qualified majority. In the EC, however, the leaders should take the decision by consensus. There is a qualified majority in the EC as well, but, unfortunately, not consensus,” commented the EP rapporteur.

Piri denounced the EU leaders’ lack of strategy against Turkey, referring to the leaders of Hungary and Poland, who were, she says, abstaining from annoying Erdogan for the sake of continuation of refugee conduct between Turkey and the EU. Piri finds the situation “very frustrating”.

Setting the EU’s overall political direction and priorities, the EC adopts, in its meetings, conclusions taken by heads of state or government of the 28 EU member states.

Topics on values and human rights ignored

According to Piri, the EU always talks about values and human rights. “However, when it comes to acting, they usually forget those topics, as is the case with Turkey-related matters,” she said.

Piri called for the EU to use available deterrent mechanisms against Turkish authorities in order to make them implement the necessary reforms. She believes that the EU, together with the EP, have lots of such mechanisms, including EU funds, visa liberalization, and customs union, to which Turkey attaches great importance.

Turkish judiciary ‘slandering, lying and plotting’ – jailed pro-Kurdish leader lashes out

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