EU officials hit Turkey on rights record in tense exchange | News | DW | 23.11.2018

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EU officials hit Turkey on rights record in tense exchange

Turkey's foreign minister has accused the EU of caring for people who want to bring down Erdogan's government. The EU's foreign affairs chief has said she hopes Turkey will rectify its state of emergency crackdown.

Senior EU officials have criticized Turkey's civil society crackdown in a tense exchange with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu during a press conference in Ankara.

"Criminal and judicial proceedings must be based on the presumption of innocence," said Johannes Hahn, the EU's commissioner for European enlargement negotiations, on Thursday. "Journalists and civil society must be able to do their important work."
Since a failed coup in 2016, Turkey has extended a crackdown to include critical news outlets, jailing scores of journalists.

Read more: Turkey lifts state of emergency, but fear of repression lingers

Turkey lashes out

In his statement, Hahn referred to the case of Turkish rights activist Osman Kavala as well as 13 academics arrested last week. Turkish authorities have claimed they were involved in an attempt to unseat the government for allegedly supporting mass protests in 2013.

But Cavusoglu hit back at Hahn and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, saying the EU should stop defending people trying to bring down Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government.

"It is both meaningless and contradictory that the EU defends persons who said, 'I have done activities to overthrow the elected government in Turkey,' simply because they are [part of] civil society," said Cavusoglu.

Read more: Turkey pushes for normalizing relations with Germany

Erdogan in Germany: Friend or foe?

Mogherini urges Demirtas release

of The 2016 coup attempt has strained relations between Ankara and Brussels, largely due to a wide-ranging crackdown by Turkish authorities that has seen politicians, academics and journalists jailed on terror-related charges.

Mogherini said she hoped that Turkey will soon release opposition leader Selahattin Demirtas, dubbed the Kurdish Obama, now that Ankara has formally ended its state of emergency.

"We are all very much aware of the marks left by the attempted coup in Turkey more than two years ago," Mogherini said. "The state of emergency is now behind us and I dare to hope that soon all related measures will be something of the past."

Read more: Turkey's Ataturk still prevalent in everyday life

ls/cmk (Reuters, dpa)

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