Two members of the European Parliament have requested the Turkish ‘government’s point of view’ on police raids Thursday in search of an unpublished manuscript, expressing skepticism about the action.
Two members of the European Parliament have requested the Turkish “government’s point of view” on police raids Thursday in search of an unpublished manuscript, expressing skepticism about the action.
“We have a hard time conceiving of what explanation would justify the unprecedented act of raiding a news desk and seeking to ban an unpublished book,” Alexander Graf Lambsdorff and Marietje Schaake told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in a joint written statement Friday.
“These actions are taking part under the counter-terrorism law. If there is anything we have learned from the fight against terrorism over the past decade, it is that the medicine should never be stronger than the disease. The insurance of security and the guarantee of freedoms go hand in hand,” the two members of the European Parliament wrote.
Lambsdorff and Schaake have asked Turkey’s chief negotiator for EU talks, State Minister Egemen Bağış, for the Turkish “government’s point of view” on the raids of a publishing house and the offices of a mainstream newspaper, held to confiscate any possible copies of an unpublished draft book by a recently arrested Turkish journalist.
Lambsdorff is the vice-president of the EP’s Alliance of Liberals and Democrats of Europe, or ALDE, who speaks for ALDE on Turkey at the parliament, and Schaake represents D66, a Dutch liberal party member of ALDE. They sent their official letter to Bağış on Thursday, immediately following the police raids on a publishing house, a home and a mainstream newspaper.
Three buildings were raided by the police Wednesday night and Thursday following a court decision to confiscate all copies of an unpublished book draft written by journalist Ahmet Şık, who was arrested two weeks ago. The 12th Court for Serious Crimes characterized the draft book as an “illegal organizational document” and also ruled that anyone who refused to hand in copies of the book would be accused of “aiding a criminal organization.”
“Unfortunately, our European friends have recently been seriously affected by manipulations of debates on the freedom of press,” Bağış told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in a written statement Friday. “We want to make clear that journalists arrested within the scope of the Ergenekon case and the raid done on the daily Radikal must be discussed in the context of the alleged terrorist organization Ergenekon case and rather separately from the freedom of press context.”
Noting the importance of the Ergenekon case, Bağış said, “As the [Turkish] government, we are against any faults in the judging proceedings or any application that would give way to restrictions to the freedom of expression.”
“We do not still understand why a legal process, totally an initiative of the judiciary, continues to be used as a tool of pressure against our government. … Efforts by the Turkish government to try and make an intervention to the independent Turkish judiciary seem necessary, but will constitute a situation inconsistent with the modern legal norms the European Union represents,” Bağış said in his statement, referring to the letter by the MEPs.
[HH] Judiciary independence must go with respect for human rights
“Thus far Prime Minister Erdoğan is refusing to comment, claiming the judiciary’s independence. Granted, Mr. Erdoğan’s renewed commitment to the independence of the judiciary should be applauded,” MEPs Lambsdorff and Schaake said in their statement.
However, although check-and-balances, as well as a separation of powers are fundamental principles in liberal democracies, that independence does not exist in a vacuum, and governments always have a responsibility, the MEPs said.
“Although independence of the judiciary is a crucial element of any democracy, transparency, good governance, due process and guarantees of civil liberties, fair trial and free expression are equally important. If institutions systematically fail to implement such principles, a government can no longer justify in-action.”
Lambsdorff and Schaake also said they were concerned with the impact on the media, as well as the risk of a climate of fear which could be the result of such actions and could have an impact on all of Turkish society.
Despite the EP’s recently adopted report on Turkey, where it criticized the lack of press freedom in the country, the MEPs said there were plans to send an independent fact-finding mission to Turkey.
“The concern press freedom is one that is shared among all political groups in the European Parliament. The European Parliament is also ready to share expertise and to help the Turkish authorities, to ensure that the fundamental freedoms of citizens are guaranteed. We would want nothing more than for Turkey to live up to its promise of being a flourishing democracy and a vibrant economy, which would serve as an example to neighbors.”
[HH] Police raids Thursday confiscated copies of Şık’s books
The Istanbul police first raided the İthaki publishing house on Wednesday and Thursday, the publisher that owned the rights to Şık’s book “İmamın Ordusu” (The Imam’s Army). They erased the digital copy of the book found there and continued searching for other digital copies.
Şık’s wife, Yonca Şık, was also told by the police Thursday that she and any other parties who had a digital copy must turn them in or they would be accused of “aiding a criminal organization.” The prosecution office also asked for copies in his lawyers’ possession, prompting questions about how they will be able to come up with a defense.
Finally the police raided offices of Radikal, a sister newspaper of the Hürriyet Daily News, asking journalist Ertuğrul Mavioğlu to hand in a copy of Şık’s book, which the latter had sent to Mavioğlu for an opinion in December 2010.
Şık’s unpublished book deals with an alleged organization founded within the Turkish police by the Fethullah Gülen religious community. This fact has led to suspicions that Şık was arrested due to the book’s contents, rather than his involvement in the alleged Ergenekon gang, which he has worked as a journalist to expose.
Ergenekon is an alleged ultranationalist, shadowy gang accused of planning to topple the government by staging a coup, initially by spreading chaos and mayhem. Some believe it to be an extension of the “deep state,” an alleged shadow organization of bureaucracy and military within the state whose existence was voiced by people including presidents but for which an exact definition has never been made.