Turkey cancels PACE member’s visit following downgrade of status

PACE's German member Bernd Fabritius.

The Turkish government has canceled a visit to the country by Bernd Fabritius, a German lawmaker from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Deutsche Welle (DW) reported on Thursday.

According to the DW Turkish service report, Fabritius, who in November 2016 was tasked by PACE to visit Turkey “to examine the country’s commitment to the principles of the legal state,” said he was saddened by the Turkish government’s decision and urged it to reconsider.

Fabritius had already planned a number of meetings, including with the justice minister and the president of the Constitutional Court.

Turkey’s decision came after a recent vote by PACE to downgrade Turkey’s status to “under monitoring.” During the voting on April 25, 113 delegates of various PACE countries voted in favor of downgrading Turkey’s status, 45 voted against and 12 abstained. The first monitoring status for Turkey was removed in 2004. The PACE decision mentions continuing cooperation with Turkey and urges that the country fulfill proposals suggested by PACE.

DW said PACE rapporteurs Marianne Mikko and Ingebjorg Godskesen criticized Turkey’s decision to cancel the visit of Fabritius under a state of emergency that has been extended three times since an attempted coup last July, saying it damages the democratic institutions of the country.

German Stern magazine reporter Raphael Geiger is seen in İstanbul.

Meanwhile, the Turkish government has also refused to renew the press accreditation of German Stern magazine reporter Raphael Geiger due to alleged remarks insulting Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. According to a report on the Der Spiegel website on Thursday, Turkey accuses Geiger of insulting the president of the republic.

Geiger, who is now reporting from Athens, said he was surprised by the decision and doesn’t know what it specifically refers to. The Turkish government has not yet commented on the case. Geiger had been working in İstanbul since early 2015 and moved to Athens last month before the new accreditation was refused.

The annual accreditation serves as the work permit for foreign correspondents in Turkey. Geiger said Turkish authorities did not officially reject his earlier application in December for renewal. However, he had been informed that the accreditation would not be renewed.

According to a report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Wednesday, Turkey ranked 155th, just behind the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the world press freedom index.

Along with Geiger, other international correspondents were not granted the extension of their accreditation for 2017, Der Spiegel said. A year ago former Der Spiegel correspondent Hasnain Kazim had left Turkey after renewal of his accreditation was rejected.

Turkey’s ties with Germany became strained after Turkish-German Die Welt reporter Deniz Yücel was arrested by a court on Feb. 27 and sent to Silivri Prison in İstanbul as part of an investigation for publishing stories on the leaked emails of President Erdoğan’s son-in-law and Energy Minister Berat Albayrak.

President Erdoğan accused Yücel of being a “German agent” and a “representative of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK]” on many occasions. The journalist is accused of disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization and inciting people to hatred and enmity. Nationwide protests took place in Germany and other European countries after Yücel’s arrest, with demands made for his immediate release.

Turkey is the worst jailer of journalists and media workers in the world. Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has announced the number of journalists behind bars as of April 20, 2017 reached to a new record with 235 languishing in Turkish jails, most without a trial and convictions. Of these journalists, 214 are arrested pending trial and without a conviction.

Most of the journalists do not even know what the charges are or what evidence, if any, the government has because the indictments were not filed yet. Also 100 journalists are wanted and 839 have been charged in Turkey. (SCF with turkishminute.com) April 27, 2107


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