EP rapporteur slams Turkish government for using terrorism charges to stifle criticism

Nacho Sanchez Amor

Turkey is using broad terrorism charges to silence critics, Nacho Sánchez Amor, MEP for the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and European Parliament rapporteur on Turkey, told the 79th meeting of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee on Thursday. , reported the Turkish minute.

Amor said the terrorist label is becoming a universal charge in Turkey, saying doctors, students and opposition politicians face terrorism charges because of their criticism of the Turkish government, or simply for doing their job in the case of lawyers and journalists.

“Do you realize how you are perceived from the outside with this huge spread of the terrorism charge?” Sanchez asked the Turkish delegation during the session.

Referring to a coup attempt in 2016, which is being used by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) as a pretext to restrict freedoms, the rapporteur recalled that the crackdown in Turkey had begun long before the coup, highlighting the seizure of critical media owned by Koza İpek Holding.

Once owned by Akın İpek and his family, Koza İpek Holding was seized by the Turkish government in 2015 over its alleged links to the Gülen movement, which is labeled by Erdoğan and his ruling AKP as a terrorist organization.

İpek, a Turkish businessman and founder of Koza İpek Holding who has lived in the UK since 2015, is facing jail time in Turkey for alleged links to Gülen.

Erdoğan has been targeting supporters of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since corruption investigations from December 17-25, 2013, which involved then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and those around him .

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and a plot against his government, Erdoğan branded the movement a terrorist organization and began targeting its members. He intensified the repression of the movement following the abortive putsch which he accused Gülen of having orchestrated. Gülen and the movement strongly deny any involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

“When did the Gülen movement start being terrorists?” asked Amor, citing the detention of thousands immediately after the July 2016 coup attempt.

The MEP says members of the Gülen movement who were involved in the coup should be held accountable for their crimes; however, accusing a teacher “who has worked in Indonesia for the past 20 years” of participating in the coup attempt went against the principle of individual responsibility in criminal charges.

Amor also highlighted the thousands of people who are under investigation for alleged insults to President Erdoğan.

Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey, according to the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). Anyone who insults the president faces up to four years in prison, a sentence that can be increased if the crime was committed through the media.

Cases of insults usually come from social media posts shared by opponents of Erdoğan. The Turkish police and judiciary perceive even the most minor criticism of the president or his government as an insult.

“What you call a crime, insulting the president, is a national sport in our countries,” Amor said.

The Turkish government’s vague definition of “terrorism” has resulted in hundreds of thousands of terrorism investigations against as many people, mostly members of the Gülen movement.

Since the coup attempt, Erdoğan has accused a growing number of opponents and groups opposed to his decisions of being “terrorists,” a move seen by critics as an attempt to bolster his authoritarian rule.

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