Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (08.02.18-http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/criticism-within-journalistic-boundaries-wont-be-regarded-as-crime-turkey-to-eu-126998) reported that a position paper submitted by Ankara to the European Union aiming to secure visa liberalization includes a vow that “critical expressions of governmental acts” will not be considered a crime “if they are within the boundaries of journalism,” daily Cumhuriyet has reported.
Turkey has long been under strong criticism from the EU and other international organizations for restricting freedom of expression through stringent anti-terror laws.
The submission of the position paper comes as part of prolonged negotiations between Ankara and Brussels during visa liberalization procedures for Turkish citizens to the Schengen area in return for Turkey’s implementation of the Readmission Agreement. To this end, Turkey has accomplished 65 criteria of 72 and on Feb. 7 introduced a roadmap on how it plans to fulfill the remaining seven conditions through a letter to the EU Commission.
According to Cumhuriyet, a legal provision in Turkey’s Criminal Code concerning journalistic activities will be annexed to the Anti-Terror Law in a bid to overcome the biggest hurdle between the two sides. With the amendment, the Anti-Terror Law will include a provision stating that “any critical expression that does not exceed the boundaries of journalism does not constitute a crime.” The government claims that this provision will ensure that no journalists can be prosecuted for his or her journalistic activities.
The position paper includes a number of other articles, reported by Cumhuriyet as follows:
- Turkey will implement the provision stipulating full implementation of the Readmission Agreement, with all its articles, at the last stage when bilateral visa-liberalization is provided. It is stated that Turkey has implemented the readmission agreement de facto since March 18, 2016, within the scope of the agreement with Greece.
- Turkey will announce that it will start delivering biometric passports from April 2.
- Steps will be taken to harmonize with the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption monitoring body. Within this perspective, an amendment will be made to the Political Parties Law. Within the GRECO, Turkey needs to make certain regulations over fight against corruption and bribery.
- Turkey is ready for negotiations for collaboration with the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (EUROPOL). The paper states that if Ankara had conveyed this roadmap before May 1, 2017 the collaboration agreement with EUROPOL could have been settled more easily. However, the EU changed its bylaw on that date and all EU members now have to approve the agreement. These negotiations are expected to last for more than a year.
- Turkey implemented a new privacy act in 2016 for visa liberalization but the EU found it to be insufficient. Turkey promised a regulation in the law, stating that it will re-address the particular regulations in Article 6, 19 and 28 of the law and it will strengthen the independence of the institution with the new regulations.
- In the position paper Ankara also stressed that it will continue to not recognize “Greek Cyprus”. It added that it is ready for collaboration with EU members on various range of issues but will leave it the European Commission on finding a solution for the Cyprus issue.
Under the front-page title “Statements which shock by Arikli”, Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (09.02.18) reports that Erhan Arikli, chairman of the Turkish settlers’ Revival Party (YDP), has described as a message to Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the entire population of the Turkish settlers in the occupied area of Cyprus the decision which the “court” will give regarding the persons who attacked Afrika newspaper and climbed on the “assembly’s’ roof waving Turkish flags. Writing on his account in the social media, Arikli alleged that in the past the “attorney general’s office” had asked for lighter punishments regarding similar offenses and claimed:
“What triggered the 22 January demonstrations was the speech made by Mr Erdogan. In his speech Mr President had strongly reacted to Afrika newspaper, which described the Afrin operation as an ‘invasion’ and after that the 22 January demonstration was organized. Almost all of those who held the 22 January demonstrations were refugee citizens of 1975 [Translator’s note: This is how he describes the Turkish settlers illegally transferred to the occupied area in Cyprus in 1975]. However, in the past those who had been holding similar demonstrations were our brothers of Cypriot origin. […] First, with a choir, in which president Akinci also participated, pressure was exerted on the police and justice. Then six of the demonstrators were randomly arrested. The demonstrators were accused of ‘riot’. Because the punishment for this crime is a life sentence the six demonstrators were arrested for a period not longer than one month and sent to prison. The attorney general’s office tried to prove that the demonstrators did what they did in an organized and programmed manner in order to strengthen the indictment and impose heavier punishment on the demonstrators and got involved in producing evidence to this end. […]
While all these were taking place, something else happened for the first time in the TRNC. Some things written on the social media were perceived as a threat and five police officers were given for the security of the judge of the case. […] The next step was that some known circles started exerting indirect pressure on the courts saying that ‘our courts are the only institution which Turkey cannot influence’. Afrika newspaper published this expression on its front page. […] What was expected with this propaganda was to impose heavier punishment on the demonstrators in order for the courts to prove themselves. I do not know which punishment will be imposed on the demonstrators after this. The only thing I know is that the message which will come out from here will be given to Turkey’s institutions here, to President Erdogan and to the whole of the citizens who are 1975 refugees”.
Under the front-page title “Leave justice alone”, Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (09.02.18) reports that the Turkish Cypriot “lawyers” condemned the threats addressed through the social media against “judge” Tacan Reynar, who is responsible for the “trial” regarding the attack against Afrika newspaper and the “assembly”. The Turkish Cypriot “bar association” criticized the statements made by Erhan Arikli, chairman of the settlers’ Revival Party (YDP), who described the decision, which the “court” will take, as a “message” to Turkish President Erdogan, Turkey and the Turkish settlers in the occupied area of Cyprus, as well as Bertan Zaroglu, “deputy” with the same party for insulting Turkish Cypriot female “lawyers” during the “trial”.
Unver Bedevi, chairman of the “association”, accompanied by a large group of “lawyers” yesterday protested in the “court’s” yard. Bedevi stated that efforts are exerted to deal a blow to “justice” and the “independence of the courts” and criticized such incidents. He noted that they intend to brief the public opinion on some issues and show their reaction. He said that those who triggered discrimination and violence in the “country” try to threaten “judges” and insult “lawyers”, instead of taking lessons from the serious consequences of the events they had caused and apologizing to the society.
Writing in his column in Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (09.02.18), Ali Baturay comments on the statements made yesterday by Erhan Arikli, chairman of the Turkish settlers’ Revival Party (YDP), and reports that the YDP officials instigate racism, try to provoke poor people and follow a policy by which they secure gains from poor people’s problems, instead of finding solutions to these problems. Noting that the statements made by YDP officials are “vitriolic, provoking and discriminating”, Baturay says that “they behave as if they are the representatives in Cyprus of a party in Turkey and not as a political party of this country”. He adds the following:
“[…] The latest statement made on the social media by Mr Erhan Arikli is frightening. Erhan Arikli, who alleges that pressure is exerted on justice in the decision to be given by the court for the suspects of the incidents against Afrika newspaper and the assembly, is actually doing this himself. Arikli’s statements that ‘the decision to be given by the court will be a message to Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and all the refugee citizens’ is the best example of interference in the justice. […] What is the relation of a decision to be given by justice for persons, who have committed a crime, with Turkey, the President of Turkey, the Turkish people and the refugees from Turkey living in Cyprus? If a group of Turkish Cypriots committed a crime today in Turkey and the court punished them, will the decision to be given by this court a message to the entire Turkish Cypriot people, the Turkish Cypriot president and the Turkish Cypriots living in Turkey? Are you trying to scare justice by saying ‘this is a message to Turkey and Mr Erdogan’? Are you giving the message to the President of Turkey to ‘regulate the Turkish Cypriots’? […]”
Moreover, in its main editorial, Kibris refers to a “dangerous game” played by the YDP and describes this party as responsible for the fact that some persons had been instigated and “unpleasant incidents” took place against Afrika newspaper and the “assembly”. “This party has been established to secure gains from racism and not against racism”, writes the paper adding that the YDP “has taken a very dangerous path” and “considers as its mission to spoil the internal peace” in the occupied area of Cyprus.
Finally, writing in his column in Turkish Cypriot daily Yeni Duzen (09.02.18) Cenk Mutluyakali describes as “dangerous” the statement made by Arikli yesterday and notes: “[…] ‘Original Cypriots and 1975 refugees from Turkey’. His actual worry is to influence justice! Of course, a word escaped from his mouth: ‘Erdogan gave the signal for the attack’! I wonder what the President of Turkey has to say about this. Because, it is obvious that this person sees himself as ‘Turkey’s deputy’ in the parliament!
The word is dangerous, but another danger is ‘the rejection’! We saw that many have instantly replied that ‘there is no discrimination between those from Turkey and those from Cyprus’. It is a lie. There is! We must see both problems. First, population much more than necessary have awkwardly been sent to this half of the island. Let us say it openly. The wish was to change the population of this geography. Secondly, the majority of this population has been excluded. Let us face both problems in order to solve them. […]”
According to Illegal Bayrak television (09.02.18, http://www.brtk.net/?english_posts=kanbay-visits-cabinet-members), illegal Turkish “ambassador” to the occupied part of Nicosia visited and congratulated the leader of the Social Democratic Party (TDP), “minister of national education and culture” Cemal Ozyigit and the leader of the Democratic Party (DP), “minister of finance” Serdar Denktas yesterday.
Speaking during the visits, Kanbay reiterated Turkey’s support to the “TRNC”.
Kanbay first visited Ozyigit and wished him success on his new duty. “The state of the Republic of Turkey is beside the national education ministry, the government and the TRNC state”, Kanbay noted and added: “Turkey will always be the most important supporter and assistant in all works to be carried out in north Cyprus for the future of the Turkish Cypriot people”.
Ozyigit, for his part, said: “A four way coalition was formed in difficult conditions and during a critical atmosphere in the country. What matters most is to make no concessions on democracy. The government’s basic principle is to act without compromising on democracy and secularism.”
Kanbay also visited and wished success to Denktas. Speaking there, Kanbay expressed the hope that the works to be carried out by the “finance ministry” in the period ahead will compensate the time lost.
Denktas, for his part, noted that “he had been working with Kanbay for the last 20 months and expressed the belief that during this new term they will be working more organized on the implementation and the coordination of the economic protocol”.
Explaining that they will be holding meetings with other coalition partners to see at what stage the targets put forward in 2013 was, Denktas said that “following the local elections they will immediately start working towards finishing the new economic protocol in October”.
Illegal Bayrak television (09.02.18, http://www.brtk.net/?english_posts=trnc-economy) broadcast the following:
“According to the 2017 figures of the TRNC central bank, the local revenues met 83% of all expenses.
The central bank issued a bulletin which gave room to the general outlook of the world economy, the TRNC economy and the daily statistical data and evaluations regarding the banking sector.
According to the bulletin, the TRNC budget with a better performance in 2017 compared to 2016 had a surplus of 78.5 million TL.
The bulletin also indicated that there has been a 27% increase in the deposit money of the 21 banks operating in the TRNC (the breakaway regime in the occupied area of the Republic of Cyprus) and a 20% increase in the gross credits.
According to the data in the bulletin, the TRNC budget performed better in the 2017 Fiscal Year than in 2016.
Accordingly, the TRNC budget which had a surplus of 20.9 million TL in 2016, with a 22% increase in 2017 had a surplus of 78.5 million TL.
The figures also showed that the total local revenues when recalculated by taking out the donations and credits supplied by Turkey from the budget have met 83% of all expenses.
Meanwhile, the inflation rates in 2017 had reached the highest levels in recent years.”
Under the title “Neglecting was the cause of the escape”, Turkish Cypriot daily Havadis newspaper (09.02.18), on its front page, reports that two prisoners, Suleyman Yilkar and Aliser Eymirov, escaped on Wednesday night from the “central prison” in the occupied part of Nicosia, while there was no guard in the watchtower during their escape.
The position of the guard in the watchtower has been empty for some years now because there is lack of guards.
According to the paper, an investigation began immediately after their escape. It showed that Yilkar, during the time he was in prison, apparently used his telephone right to talk to a Turk, who is in the government controlled area of Cyprus. It is believed that Yilkar has fled to the government controlled area of Cyprus after his escape. However, it has not been determined yet where Eymirov is.
Ankara Anatolia news agency (08.02.18-http://aa.com.tr/en/europe/turkey-calls-eps-recent-resolution-null-and-void/1058320) reported that the Turkish Foreign Ministry dismissed on Thursday the European Parliament's Resolution titled "Current human rights situation in Turkey" and claimed that the the Resolution adopted on February 8 "is far from understanding the current conditions Turkey faces."
Turkey defined the Resolution as "null and void" and said: "As an institution allowing the rags of the terror organization to be hung in its own buildings, it is not surprising that such a Resolution has been adopted by the European Parliament.
“This is also the clearest indicator of our country’s and the Turkish people’s rightfulness in no longer being able to take seriously the EP which has long lost its credibility. Therefore, this Resolution is null and void for us."
Responding to the EP's criticisms regarding Turkey's state of emergency, the Foreign Ministry said: "Adopting effective measures such as the State of Emergency, which is needed to fully eliminate the threats against the existence of our State and our nation’s right to democratic life, is the duty and an incontestable right of the Republic of Turkey.”
"Measures taken as part of the State of Emergency are conducted within the laws and in conformity with our international obligations. These measures are continuously reviewed; our cooperation based on transparency with international organizations continues on these subjects," it added.
The statement stressed on Turkey's regional challenges in terms of security conditions, and stated that the Resolution "is nothing but a patchwork of ungrounded claims compiled one after the other from various sources, just for the sake of criticism."
"The Resolution is yet another reflection of the twisted perspective that overlooks the fact that the terrorist coup attempt of FETO [Fetullah Terrorist Organization] on 15 July 2016 in our country targeted, above all, our democratic and legitimate Government and our Constitutional system…”
The statement added that the terrorist coup plotters violated Turkish citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms -- first and foremost the right to life -- and they attempted to establish an oppressive government.
Regarding Turkey's recently launched Operation Olive Branch against PYD/PKK terrorists in Syria's Afrin, the Ministry reasserted that the operation "is fully conducted in line with the international law and based on the right to self-defense as enshrined in Article 51 of the UN Charter, as well as the relevant UNSC Resolutions."
"From the outset, Turkey clearly expressed its legitimate security concerns, as well as the target, end-goal and principles of the operation... All necessary precautions are taken to avoid collateral damage and any harm to civilians."
Turkey refuted the EP's criticisms regarding the country's fight against terrorism and asserted that Turkey's "great devotion" in counter-terrorism "demonstrates that some elements within the EP are incapable of comprehending the vital importance of this fight for Europe as well."
Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (09.02.18-http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/erdogan-syrians-will-not-stay-here-forever-127012) report that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Turkey aims for the 3.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey to return to their homes, vowing to pursue “Operation Olive Branch” in Syria’s Afrin.
“We want our refugee brothers and sisters to return to their land, to their homes. We are not in the position to hide 3.5 million here forever,” Erdogan said on February 8, addressing local province heads at the Presidential Palace in Ankara.
As Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch” in Syria’s northwestern province of Afrin continues into its second week, Erdogan has vowed to “solve the Afrin issue.”
“We have taken 2,000 square kilometers of land under our control in al-Rai, Jarabulus and al-Bab. Some 135,000 refugee brothers and sisters in Turkey who have come from Syria have returned to their homes,” Erdogan said.
“We have reconstructed the cities, their hospitals and schools. Now, they are living in their own land. The Free Syrian Army [FSA] and our soldiers have provided security for them. We want to do the same in Afrin,” he added.
(…)Erdogan also rejected a call by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu to establish contact with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “What will we talk about with a murderer who has killed one million of his citizens?” said Erdogan.
“You can walk hand in hand with terrorists when necessary … Until today, we have not walked with those who have taken the path permitted by terrorist organizations and we will not do so from now on,” Erdogan added.(…)
Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (08.02.18-http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/osce-blasts-turkeys-legal-moves-against-criticism-of-afrin-op-126997) reported that Harlem Désir, the Organization for Security and co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, has criticized the Turkish government over the detention of hundreds of social media users for criticism at the ongoing Afrin operation in Syria. “Detention for expressing one’s dissenting views on social media, including on military operations, is unacceptable. I request the authorities to reconsider such practice,” Désir said in a written statement late on February 7.
According to the Interior Ministry, as many as 449 people so far have been detained and charged with terror propaganda for their social media posts on Turkey’s recent military operations in Afrin, he noted.
Désir had emphasized in a letter to Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on February 6 that “creating an environment restricting freedom of expression can only weaken democratic societies.”
“Disagreeing with actions taken by the government should not be punished with imprisonment. Freedom of expression must be respected, even in times of conflict or war,” he added.
“Security concerns should not lead to disproportionate restrictions on fundamental freedoms. I call on Turkey to reverse its current approach to critical expressions, release those detained arbitrarily, and drop the charges against them,” Desir stated.
On the same issue, Ankara Anatolia news agency (08.02.18-http://aa.com.tr/en/turkey/turkey-arrests-3-over-terror-propaganda-on-social-media/10583010) reported that police sources said on Thursday that at least three suspects were arrested in Turkey over charges of spreading terror propaganda on the social media.
Turkish police arrested Mehmet Zeki Kilic, the co-chair of the Peoples' Democratic Party’s (HDP) Sancaktepe district representation in Istanbul, said a source, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on talking to the media.
Kilic is accused of spreading propaganda of the PKK terrorist group on social media.
In the northwestern province of Tekirdag, police arrested two people over terror propaganda against Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch on social media.
A Turkish court remanded in custody one of the suspects, the source said.
Meanwhile, in Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakir, a court remanded in custody Mehmet Arslan, the co-chair of the Democratic Regions Party (DBP) over making terror propaganda on social media and his statements on Turkey’s operation in Syria. He is accused of being a member of an armed terrorist organization, the source added. Arslan had been arrested on Feb. 6.
The propaganda against the Turkish military began soon after Turkey launched the military operation in Syria’s northwestern region of Afrin.
PYD/PKK terrorist organization posted fake and distorted photographs on the social media and falsely claimed that they were from Afrin. (…)
Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (08.02.18-http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/istanbul-to-host-turkey-russia-iran-summit-on-syria-126984) reported that Turkey, Russia and Iran are expected to hold a presidential summit in Istanbul to discuss efforts to find a political settlement to the Syrian civil war, amid rising tension in Idlib province and Turkey’s ongoing military operation in the Afrin district.
The three-way summit was discussed during a phone conversation between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin early on February 8, during which they also discussed Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch” into Afrin.
Turkish sources said that the two leaders agreed to hold a top-level meeting with the inclusion of Iranian President Hasan Rouhani in Istanbul, following their summit in Sochi in late November 2017. The date of the upcoming Istanbul summit has not been decided.
Erdogan told Putin about the ongoing Turkish incursion into Afrin, while the two leaders “agreed on the need for the intensification of efforts for the establishment of monitoring spots in Idlib” as part of joint works to create de-escalation zones in Syria in line with the Astana agreement, sources said. They added that the two leaders “agreed to continue their military and political coordination” in the Syrian theater, while Erdogan raised the issue of the “worrying situation” in Eastern Ghouta, where Syrian government and Russian forces have staged harsh raids on rebel-held areas.
Meanwhile, Erdogan also spoke with Iranian counterpart Hasan Rouhani on the phone that same day. The two leaders discussed the latest developments in Syria and hailed increased cooperation on security issues and the fight against terrorism. (…)
Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (08.02.18-http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/pervin-buldan-and-sezai-temelli-nominated-as-new-hdp-co-chairs-127035) reported that the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Istanbul lawmaker Pervin Buldan and HDP Deputy co-chair Sezai Temelli have been nominated as prospective co-chairs in the party’s upcoming congress, incumbent HDP co-chair Serpil Kemalbay said during a press conference in Ankara on Feb. 8.
“Pervin Buldan and Sezai Temelli will stand for the co-chair positions in our congress,” she said, referring to the upcoming vote to elect the party’s leader.
A consensus commission set up to pick co-chair candidates had already selected Buldan to replace jailed co-chair Selahattin DemirtaS, who has been accused of various terrorist activities, according to Turkish media reports on February 7.
As a lawmaker who represented the eastern province of Igdır for two terms and current HDP Deputy chair, Buldan has been deemed an experienced politician.
In an interview with Dogan News Agency on Jan. 12, Demirtas said he would undertake any duties given to him by the HDP, despite having stepped aside from the leadership race.
(…)The HDP’s third ordinary congress has been scheduled for February 11.
Some 500 members of the HDP have been detained in the last 10 days mainly due to their opposition to “Operation Olive Branch” but they are determined to make the congress a new start in the struggle for peace, Kemalbay said.
Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (08.02.18-http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/former-istanbul-governor-former-turkish-police-chief-face-up-to-15-years-in-jail-127033) reported that a public prosecutor on February 8 demanded up to 15 years in jail for former Istanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu and the former Turkish Police Chief Hüseyin Capkın on charges of having links to the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).
Mutlu is accused of “being a member of armed terror organization” and Capkın is accused of “willfully helping the organization, despite not being involved in the organization’s hierarchical structure.”
Mutlu was arrested on Aug. 5, 2016 along with nine other suspects, shortly after Turkey’s July 2016 military coup attempt, believed to have been orchestrated by the followers of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen.
Mutlu, who served four years as Istanbul governor until 2014, a period that included a police crackdown on the Gezi protests under his watch. In 2014 he was reassigned to Ankara to become an Interior Ministry civil servant but was suspended from his position on July 17, 2016.
(…)Capkın was arrested on September 3, 2016 and also denies all charges.
“I’m not a part of such an organization. I’ve never received help from [such] an organization during my career. I’ve never sent my children to any schools belonging to this group,” he said in his testimony.
The 2016 coup attempt left 250 people dead and nearly 2,200 wounded. In the aftermath the government declared a state of emergency, which has continued up until today.
TURKISH AFFAIRS SECTION