NATO silent on Turkey arrests of journalists and parliament members

Published November 21st, 2016 - 04:00 GMT
A security agent outside the headquarters of opposition newspaper, Cumhuriyet, in Istanbul in October. (AFP Photo/Ozan Kose)
A security agent outside the headquarters of opposition newspaper, Cumhuriyet, in Istanbul in October. (AFP Photo/Ozan Kose)

The secretary general of NATO declined to condemn the arrest of members of parliament and journalists in member-country Turkey, after being pressed on the matter on Monday by a Dutch lawmaker.

Ten members of parliament from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) are under arrest on charges of spreading terrorist propaganda, while more than 120 journalists are in jail on a variety of charges.

"More journalists in jail here than in China," said Han ten Broeke from the Dutch Liberal Party (VVD), speaking at a summit of NATO parliamentarians in Istanbul. He added that "newspapers are being closed on an almost daily basis."

Ten Broeke expressed solidarity with Turkey after the failed coup in July, which sparked a far-reaching purge of state institutions and the media, but said that the alliance cannot ignore violations of freedom of speech while thinking that it "can defend the free world."

"Democracy requires a bit of spine and backbone. You must stand firm for the values we all share," he said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Turkey had a right to prosecute those responsible for the coup but only within the scope of the law.

"I personally attach great importance to the core values of NATO - democracy, rule of law and individual liberty," Stoltenberg said.

The crackdown in Turkey has spread from targeting alleged followers of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based preacher whom Ankara accuses of ordering the putsch, to various opposition groups. More than 100,000 civil servants have been dismissed.

Gulen was once an ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but the two fell out in recent years.

Meanwhile, a Party of European Socialists delegation was in Turkey trying to meet Selahattin Demirtas, a key leader of the HDP and one of the jailed parliamentarians. However, police prevented them from entering the prison, a spokesman said.

The party has been staunchly critical of Turkey's arrest of the HDP members this month and has noted that the HDP, like all legal parties in Turkey, condemned the coup attempt.

Dozens of HDP-affiliated mayors have been booted from their elected posts in recent months and some are under arrest. The HDP denies links to the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

A ceasefire between Turkey and the PKK broke down in 2015, after peace talks stagnated, leading to renewed violence. Erdogan's government says it will not reopen negotiations with the armed group. The conflict has claimed more than 40,000 lives over 30 years.

By Shabtai Gold

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