Statement on freedom of speech and independence of the judiciary in Turkey

SI Council, Costa Rica, 23-24 January 2012

The Turkish judiciary has taken the deplorable decision to launch a probe against Mr Kemal Kılıcdaroğlu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition People’s Republican Party (CHP). The public prosecutor asked for the revocation of Mr Kılıcdaroğlu’s parliamentary immunity in order to charge him with ‘attempting to influence a fair trial’ and ‘insulting public servants on duty’ following remarks Mr Kılıcdaroğlu made after a visit to two elected CHP MPs, Mr Mustafa Balbay and Mr Mehmet Haberal, who have been held in pre-trial detention for several years as suspects in the Ergenekon case.

This move by the public prosecutor is the last part of a long term of oppression on any dissenting voice since 2007. The list comprises students demanding free education to environmental activists struggling against hydroelectric power plants in the Black Sea region. In Turkey there are currently over 3500 web sites banned by court ruling. According to the Progressive Journalists’ Association there are currently over 60 journalists in prison. In addition tens of elected officials of the BDP are being detained as part of the notorious KCK trial that has been going on since 2009. Following the referendum of 12 September 2010, supported by many in Europe, which claimed to make the judiciary more independent and its composition more representative, the judiciary only became more linked to the government. Regrettably, the separation of powers is no more in Turkey: the judiciary branch has been seized by the executive branch.

Freedom of expression is a basic value in democratic societies and any act against this freedom is unacceptable for the socialist, social democrats and progressive forces around the world.

The Turkish government should respect freedom of speech and the independence of the judiciary and protect democratic values and human rights in Turkey.