SI calls for respect for democracy in Turkey and the release of detained HDP leaders

04 November 2016

The Socialist International firmly deplores the arrest this morning of Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, Co-Chairs of the People’s Democratic Party (Halkların Demokratik Partisi), HDP, a member party of the SI, and the detention of 11 other HDP members of parliament, in a further blow to Turkish democracy following earlier crackdowns and restrictions on the freedoms and rights of the citizens of that country.

The HDP is the third largest political party in Turkey and won seats in parliament in June 2015 despite the existing 10% threshold, and again in the elections re-called in November 2015. In May this year, the immunity that MPs usually hold from prosecution was removed from HDP members. Party members have subsequently protested against repeated raids of their homes and offices, travel bans and arbitrary arrests, particularly since the failed coup of last July.

The Socialist International, which includes the Republican People’s Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi), CHP, the leading opposition party in Turkey as a full member, and the HDP, as a consultative member, has been closely following with concern developments in Turkey since the attempted coup last July, which both parties took a clear stand against. Within the context of the state of emergency declared in July, and which has since been extended to January 2017, a reported number of more than 110,000 officials have been detained or suspended, more than 130 journalists have been taken in to custody, several hundred have had their press cards confiscated and over 150 media outlets have been closed down. In recent days the authorities stormed the offices of the Cumhuriyet newspaper, arresting 15 members of staff including its editor-in-chief.

Opposition political representatives and freedom of expression in Turkey are victims of a lack of proper implementation or denial of the presumption of innocence in the case of those accused and detained, of the absence of the due process of law and of the necessary transparency and the guarantees required when enforcing the state of emergency. It is therefore of crucial importance that any curtailment of rights, restrictions on freedom of expression, imprisonment or detentions, be clearly justified in accordance with the law, if Turkey is to remain a democracy.

The government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urgently needs to change its course to strengthen and defend the rules and principles of democracy, and not to weaken them by side-stepping or denying them. The struggle against terror in Turkey and its criminal targeting of innocent people, which we strongly condemn, will be reinforced by a judiciary and a justice system that protects and defends all of the rights and all of the freedoms of all of the citizens of Turkey.

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