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Thank you Madame Chair.
The fate of Selahattin Demirtaş is an issue that I believe lies close to the hearts of many of us. He has been for long years an interlocutor for many, and a key figure in Turkey's democratic debate. Today we discuss not just the fate of a human being, which is probably the most important thing a hemicycle can discuss, but also the state of Turkey's democracy; we discuss the individual and collective rights of all Turkish citizens.
In these two years, we have witnessed the detention of elected politicians, journalists and academics. We are well aware of the incredible challenge that Turkey faced back in July 2016, with the attempted coup d'état. But today the state of emergency is over, and this should be the time to strengthen Turkey's democracy.
The independence of Turkey's judiciary is being undermined. Fundamental rights, such as the presumption of innocence, are often ignored and violated.
On the one hand, the case of [Selahattin] Demirtaş reflects these larger trends. On the other hand, this case is unique. [Selahattin] Demirtaş is a Member of Parliament, a former presidential candidate, the co-chair of his party and a democratically elected leader. His case speaks about pluralism in Turkey, and the right of every individual to take part in their country's democratic life - freely.
Also for this reason, we have followed his case since his detention more than two years ago. On the day of his detention, Commissioner [for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes] Hahn and myself described him as our "trusted and valued interlocutor". And I believe many in this hemicycle will share these views.
As you know, I raised his case again – in public and in private – during my last meeting with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, at the High Level Political Dialogue in Ankara last month, that, by the way, was a very fruitful, open and constructive meeting of which I am very happy.
This was just two days after the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that we discuss today. The Court has ruled that [Selahattin] Demirtaş' extended detention violated the European Convention of Human Rights. As Commissioner [Johannes] Hahn and I said in Ankara just a couple of weeks ago during the [High Level Political Dialogue] meeting: "We expect the Turkish authorities, including the Turkish judiciary, to follow-up, in an appropriate manner, on the recommendations by the Council of Europe and on the rulings by the European Court of Human Rights and we expect to see concrete progress in Turkey on the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, including those of Mr [Selahattin] Demirtaş."
The Court in this case has described his detention as an “unjustified interference” with the free expression of the Turkish people's opinion, and with his right to be elected and to sit in Parliament. The Court found, “beyond reasonable doubt”, that his time in prison had the purpose to suffocate pluralism and Turkey's democratic debate.
Let me remind everyone that the European Convention of Human Rights does not belong to the European Union nor to any of our Member States. It is the result of the work done in the 1950s by the Council of Europe, and Turkey is a proud founding member of the Council of Europe. The European Convention on Human Rights is embedded in Turkey's domestic law. So this is not a violation of a recommendation coming from the European Union, but of Turkey's own principles and values.
The legal status of [Selahattin] Demirtaş has changed now following a recent ruling in another case by a Turkish Court of Appeal. Nonetheless, I believe that it is not only Turkey's responsibility, but also Turkey's interest, to immediately follow up on rulings by the European Court of Human Rights.
This is not just about Turkey's status as a candidate country – I would like to be very clear on this. I believe this is about the kind of country the Turkish people want and deserve; a country with stronger institutions; a more inclusive country; a country where all the people of Turkey can find their place, and contribute to the Turkish society's collective progress.
What we would like to see as European Union is a strong, free, secure, prosperous, democratic Turkey as a key neighbour and partner in our region, not just as a candidate country. It is in our shared interest to contribute to this and all Turkish people should know that they can count on the European Union to be at their side for a secure, democratic, free and prosperous Turkey.
Link to the video: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I165451
Thank you Mr President,
I contribute to your efforts to manage time, simply thanking those of you that bothered enough to come to this hemicycle and took the floor to support the work and the positions that we have expressed in these years in defence of all those in Turkey that have worked and continue to work for human rights and democracy. It is not always an easy task, but we believe that it is something we do not do against Turkey, but for Turkey and, as I said, for all Turkish citizens that aspire to have a different kind of life.
As I said, many of us have considered and still consider [Selahattin] Demirtaş an interlocutor. I had the chance to express publicly in Ankara just a couple of weeks ago the expectation we have, both myself and Commissioner [Johannes] Hahn in the name of the European Union, to see the decision of the [European] Court [of Human Rights] implemented by the Turkish authorities. I think that no clearer position could have been expressed publicly in that moment and I thank this hemicycle for supporting that position. The work will continue. Thank you very much.
Link to the video: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I165453