EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT REPORT STRAINS ALREADY FRAGILE TURKEY-EU TIES
The European Parliament's adoption, this past Wednesday, of a report containing sharp criticism of Turkey on press freedom has further frayed relations between Turkey and the European Union.
The report is "biased" and "unfair," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a written statement following the European Parliament's decision to adopt the text penned by Turkey rapporteur Ria Oomen-Ruijten, a Dutch Christian-Democrat politician.
"The documents and reports published by the European Parliament are meaningful for Turkey only if a serious, constructive and objective approach is adopted," the ministry said.
The European Parliament meanwhile said it is ready to create a delegation to closely follow the trial of some Turkish journalists arrested recently on charges of having links to an alleged illegal organization accused of plotting to topple the government.
The report expressed serious doubts about the "deterioration in freedom of the press" in Turkey and called on the government to "uphold the principles of press freedom." After a motion for amendment, the latest crackdown on journalists, including the arrests of Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık, was also inserted into the final version of the report.
The European Parliament is expected to establish a delegation to follow the cases of Şener, Şık and what it described as "other journalists facing police or judicial harassment," daily Hürriyet reported Thursday.
The report also emphasized that investigations of alleged coup plans, such as the Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) cases, need to demonstrate the proper, independent and transparent functioning of Turkish democratic institutions and the country's judiciary, and expressed concerns about excessively long pre-trial detention periods.
The international body also said it is "concerned by the lack of progress in these [coup-plot] investigations" and noted that "the recent detention of well-known journalists such as Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık might lead to a loss of credibility of these trials, which should, on the contrary, strengthen democracy."
The European Parliament's report is the most critical issued in recent years and comes after Turkish government officials faulted the European Union for the lack of progress in Turkey's EU accession negotiations since formal talks began in 2005.
"If they do not want Turkey in, they should say this openly ... and then we will mind our own business and will not bother them," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said recently.
Turkey has so far opened 13 chapters in its entry talks with the EU.
Excerpts from the European Parliament's Turkey report:
– The Parliament welcomed the adoption of constitutional amendments as a step in the right direction and at the same time underlined the pressing need for overall constitutional reform transforming Turkey into a full-fledged democracy.
– The Parliament commended the progress made on civil-military relations.
– The Parliament expressed concerns about the ongoing confrontation between the political parties and the lack of readiness on the part of government and opposition to work toward consensus on key reforms.
– The Parliament appreciated the progress made in reforming the judiciary and expressed concerns that Turkish judicial arrangements have not yet been improved sufficiently to ensure the right to a fair and timely trial, asking the government to implement the constitutional amendments adopted in this area.
– The Parliament reiterated the call made in its previous resolutions for the electoral system to be reformed by lowering the 10 percent threshold, thereby strengthening party pluralism and better reflecting the plurality of Turkish society; it particularly deplored the fact that no reform was undertaken in this area in 2010.
– The Parliament called on the government to revitalize its efforts as part of the process of democratic opening and to address the Kurdish issue comprehensively with a view to reaching a peaceful solution.
– The Parliament restated its expectation that the government's announcements about the reopening of the Halki Greek Orthodox seminary will soon be followed by action and by measures providing for the unhindered training of Christian communities' clergy.
– The Parliament strongly condemned the continuing terrorist violence by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
– The Parliament called on the Turkish government and all parties concerned to give their active support to the ongoing negotiations on the Cyprus issue and to contribute in concrete terms to a comprehensive settlement. It also called on the government to facilitate a suitable climate for negotiations by starting to withdraw its forces from Cyprus immediately.
--The Parliament urged Turkey and Armenia to ratify, without preconditions, the protocols signed in 2009 and to open the border, and called on Turkey to use its regional weight to enhance confidence-building measures.
PM: "WE WALK ON OUR OWN PATH"
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the European Parliament's Turkey report as "unbalanced."
"I see this report unbalanced because this report is far away from Turkey's realities, and prepared as ordered. It seems that those who prepared this report do not have any single idea and knowledge about Turkey," he said.
"Their duty is to prepare reports. Our duty is to govern a country. We walk on our own path."
TURKS RETURN TO TUNISIA
The Turkish ambassador to Tunisia said that most of Turkish people, who left the north African country during the uprising in January, have returned.
Ambassador Akin Algan said that hundreds of Turkish people left Tunisia when widespread protests toppled the longtime president.
"They came back and started working again after situation calmed down. Protests came to an end after the new government announced that parliamentary elections would take place on July 24," he added.
Weeks of violent protests over unemployment, high food prices, and corruption left dozens of people dead in Tunisia in January. The wave of rallies was sparked by the suicide of an unemployed college graduate, who torched himself in December after police confiscated his fruit cart, cutting off his source of income.
Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali stepped down after 23 years in power and fled his country.
U.S. IS RELUCTANT TO GIVE FLIGHT CODES FOR F-35 FIGHTERS
Experts from Undersecreteriat of Defense Industries said that if Turkey does not have flight codes of F-35 fighters, it means Turkey will not own the aircraft. The first series of F-35 fighters, which is to be produced by a consortium of U.S. Turkey, England, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Australia and Canada, will be delivered to Turkey in 2015.
İf the flight codes are not given to owner countries, the fighters are at risk of being open to remote control [sic].
APPOINTMENT WITH CLUMSY AMBASSADOR
Prime Minister Erdogan will receive the new U.S. Amabassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone today at 3:00 p.m.
In the past, P.M. Erdogan accused the ambassador for being a clumsy rookie after his comments about the detention of 9 journalists.
National Intelligence Organization's (MİT) former external operations department chief Kaşif Kozinoğlu, who was wanted for his alleged role in the Ergenekon case, returned to Turkey from Afghanistan and testified in an Istanbul court. Later, Kozinoğlu was arrested and sent to Metris Prison.
A RACE TO PARLIAMENT
A number of bureaucrats have resigned from their posts to run in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Some people on trial in the Ergenekon case will also be candidates.
The most surprising name among candidates is Hanefi Avcı, who is still in jail on charges of being member of an illegal organization.
"WE EXPERIENCED DEATH"
Three journalists working for the BBC, including a Turkish cameraman, were arrested, tortured and subjected to a mock execution by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's security forces.
Goktay Koraltan, a Turkish member of the BBC team, said they were beaten while being interrogated as suspected "British spies."
"We were lined up against the wall facing it [the wall]," he said. "An officer pulled the trigger. The shots went past our ears. It was a mock execution. After the shooting incident, one man, who spoke very good English, released us."
FIRST STEP FOR PROFESSIONAL ARMY
Turkey has taken a giant step toward a professional army. The draft envisaging the hiring of contracted soldiers was enacted by Parliament.
'SECRET EVIDENCE' AT TURKEY'S NEWS KIOSKS
Lawyers for a Turkish journalist accused in an alleged coup-plot case are crying foul after the "secret evidence" against their client, which they were denied access to, was published on Thursday by a string of pro-government newspapers.
The daily papers Bugün, Yeni Şafak and Star – all known for their close ties to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) – published the text of some phone conversations considered part of the "secret evidence" against journalist Nedim Şener, his lawyers said in a petition to the court.
Lawyers for Şener, a reporter with daily Milliyet who was arrested recently within the scope of the Ergenekon probe, said they had been refused access to the evidence published by the pro-government papers on Wednesday. They objected to the court's decision to arrest the journalist and asked for his release.
"Because of the constraints on the [evidence] file, we couldn't even learn the number and date of the file, and that destroyed our right to [mount a] defense," the lawyers said in their objection. They criticized the decision to restrict evidence in the case, saying that all they knew about the accusations against their client is the questions asked at the Police Department and Prosecutor's Office.
"Making a defense in such negative conditions is hard and almost impossible," they said.
"The principle of 'equality of arms,' constituting a basic principle of modern criminal procedure, was clearly violated in the case of our client," the lawyers added, saying that the inequitable treatment of the defense and the prosecution violates the right to a fair trial.
In their petition, the lawyers said Şener was arrested within the scope of Article 100 of the Criminal Procedure Code, but that the arrest decision lacks the reasons on which the provision is based. They said neither Şener nor his defense counsel know "the scope of the investigation file," "the content of communication detection proceedings" or "the documents and information found during the search made at the OdaTv news website [office] within the scope of the Ergenekon coup-plot case."
The claim that Şener wrote part of former police chief Hanefi Avcı's book "Haliç'te Yaşayan Simonlar: Dün Devlet Bugün Cemaat" ("Devotee" Residents of Haliç: Yesterday State, Today Religious Community) was part of a slander campaign, the lawyers said. They added that Avcı was accused of membership in the illegal Revolutionary Headquarters organization, while Şener has been accused of belonging of the alleged Ergenekon gang, two claims they said were in conflict with each other.
"Our client [Şener] has clearly stated since this issue broke out that such a situation does not exist. The author of the book [Avcı] says he wrote the book himself and our client declares that he saw the book when it came out on the market," the lawyers said. "It is slander to say 'you wrote the book' without any proof. This is the result of a smear campaign started against our client by a couple of journalists who cannot tolerate him."
The right to defense was seriously violated and the e-mail sent May 6, 2009, to the Police Department, alleging Şener's connection to the Ergenekon gang, does not have value in court, the lawyers said. They said the first voice recording in the file belonging to Şener was dated 18 days after this message was allegedly received.
The lawyers' petition also included evaluations made by President Abdullah Gül after the decision to arrest Şener, a 20-year journalism veteran.
"I cannot intervene in the work of the judiciary, judges and prosecutors. Nevertheless, when I follow the things going on, I realize that some developments happen that do not see acceptance within the conscience of the public," Gül said. "This situation casts a shadow on the view that Turkey has arrived and is seeing appreciation by everybody. I feel anxious about this."
38 TURKS ENTER FORBES' BILLIONAIRES LIST
Thirty-eight Turks were included on the world's billionaires list by the U.S. financial magazine Forbes. The owner of Turkey's Çukurova Holding, Mehmet Emin Karamehmet, entered the list at the 268th place with his $4 billion wealth. There were 28 Turks on the list last year. With 38 businesspeople entering the list, Turkey topped the Middle East and Africa region.