The European Commissioner responsible for relations with countries that aspire to join the bloc, Johannes Hahn, has warned that the EU is concerned over the arrest of journalists, human rights defenders and civil society activities in Turkey.
“Criminal and judicial proceedings must be based on the presumption of innocence. Journalists and civil society must be able to do their important work,” Hahn told reporters, standing alongside Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara on November 22.
Hahn was referring to jailed rights activist Osman Kavala and 13 academics detained last week in an investigation accusing them of a bid to unseat the government through mass protests in 2013.
In a statement released after the November 22 meetings, the EU said Turkey needed to “take decisive action to reverse the current trend in the rule of law and fundamental rights”.
As reported by the Reuters news agency, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, also at the news conference, took Turkey to task over the detentions of academics and said she hoped that a detained pro-Kurdish politician, Selahattin Demirtas, would be released soon.
In a riposte, Cavusoglu called on the EU to stop defending “those who are engaging in activities with the aim of removing Turkey’s democratically elected government”.
On November 21, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Turkey should swiftly process the legal case of Demirtas, former head of the pro-Kurdish opposition, saying his pre-trial detention had gone on longer than could be justified.
“Turkey should follow the ECHR ruling,” Mogherini said. “There are no double standards here. We have high standards, whether you like it or not.”
However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dismissed the ECHR ruling on Demirtas, saying it amounted to support of terrorism.