A European delegation of members of the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, academics, and journalists, was blocked from visiting Selahattin Demirtas in Edirne Prison. Photo: Rudaw video
ANKARA, Turkey – A European delegation was blocked from visiting Selahattin Demirtas, imprisoned co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), at Turkey’s high security Edirne Prison.
The delegation had requested permission from Turkish authorities to visit jailed HDP members and imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. They wanted to consult with Ocalan regarding the Kurdish-Turkish peace process. “We believe that Ocalan will give peaceful support to the Kurdish issue and the democratization process in Turkey,” the delegation wrote in their request to the Turkish Minister of Justice, according to a press release from the European delegates.
“The acceptance of our request would provide a positive sign about the state of the rule of law and democracy in the country,” the delegation wrote in a second request to the justice ministry and prison authorities.
Outside Edirne Prison the group was denied permission to visit Demirtas, who was arrested in November last year and is facing 102 proceedings on charges of managing a terrorist organization, inciting violence and hatred, and praising a crime. Ankara considers the pro-Kurdish HDP to be aligned with the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
“It’s very important for those of us who believe in democracy to be here to fight for better democracy in Turkey,” Julie Ward, a member of the European Parliament from England, told Rudaw outside Edirne Prison. “We can’t see how the Turkish state can be existing in the 21st century unless it is prepared to uphold the principles of freedom and democracy that we uphold in our own countries.”
Julie Ward, member of the European Parliament
Ulla Sandbaek, a Danish member of the Council of Europe, told Rudaw that she was seeing the Turkish state approaching a total collapse in the rule of law and democracy. She described this trend as “worrying,” adding that Europe needs to monitor Turkey.
“People are being put in jail. People have been silenced in many different ways. They are afraid,” she said.
Ulla Sandbaek, member of the Council of Europe
The European delegation consists of members of the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, academics, and journalists. They will prepare a report on their findings from their visit to Turkey and distribute it to bodies including the European Parliament and United Nations.
Ankara has justified its recent crackdown on civil society, saying it is targeting alleged members of the Gulen movement, which Ankara blames for instigating an attempted coup last summer, and terrorist elements, including the PKK and ISIS.