EP Condemns Violence, Censorship in Turkey

Bulgaria in EU | June 13, 2013, Thursday // 16:14|  views

Protests began 13 days ago over the redevelopment of Gezi Park in Istanbul and turned into violent clashes with riot police. Photo by EPA/BGNES

The European Union expressed deep concern about Turkish government action to clear Istanbul's Taksim Square of protesters overnight, when police fired teargas into a crowd of thousands on June 12.

In a resolution voted on June 13, MEPs denounced the harsh measures used in the peaceful demonstrations. They also said that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan should play a unifying and conciliating role, the press service of the European Parliament (EP) reported.

On Wednesday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a 24-hours deadline to the Minister of the Interior to bring to an end the protests at the emblematic Taksim square in Istanbul.

Wednesday evening, riot police used teargas and water cannon on people in office clothes and families with children, as well as youth in masks.

"I followed the events last night with growing concern," the EU Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fuele, said in a speech at the EP in Strasbourg.

Fuele said the government should pursue dialogue with demonstrators after almost two weeks of protests against Erdogan.

"Any approach based on confrontation and division is a source of even more serious concern, not only for Turkish society, but also for the European Union," he stressed.

Those responsible for the police violence should be brought to justice and arrested, the peaceful protesters should be released immediately and the victims should be offset, MEPs insist.

They approved the balanced response to the protests of President Abdullah Gul and the apologies of Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, but condemned the unwillingness of the Turkish government and of the PM to take measures for reconciliation, to apologize and to reflect the reactions of the population.

Protesters increasingly feel that the voice of the minority, disappointed by recent restrictions, is not being heard, the MEPs said. They emphasized that in pluralist democracy majority is responsible for including the opposition and the civil society in decision-making.

Peaceful and legitimate demonstrations prove the vitality of the civil society in Turkey but the country needs to improve its democratic institutions, its rule of law and its respect for fundamental freedoms, the MEPs further said.

They expressed further concern because of the violation of media freedom in Turkey, including censorship and increasing self-censorship.

Media remained silent about the demonstrations while users of the social network Twitter were arrested. Members of the EP stressed on the importance of an independent press in a democratic society, as well as on the role of the judiciary system in ensuring that freedom, citing the large number of arrested and sentenced journalists.

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