EU parliament calls for freeze on Turkey’s membership talks

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters during a rally for upcoming local elections, in Istanbul. (Reuters)
Updated 13 March 2019
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EU parliament calls for freeze on Turkey’s membership talks

  • Forging a common position on Turkey’s long-stalled EU bid, lawmakers voted 370 in favor and 109 against, with 143 abstentions, for an official freeze of the membership process
  • The parliament adopted its stance two days before EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is set to meet Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Brussels to discuss bilateral relations

STRASBOURG: The European Union should formally suspend Turkey’s negotiations to join the bloc, EU lawmakers said on Wednesday in a symbolic rebuke of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who Western governments accuse of widespread abuses of human rights.
Forging a common European Parliament position on Turkey’s long-stalled EU bid, lawmakers voted 370 in favor and 109 against, with 143 abstentions, for an official freeze of the membership process, which would jeopardize some EU funding.
EU governments have the final say in any suspension.
“Sitting in a cell for 17 months without knowing what you are being accused of, that is reality in today’s Turkey,” Kati Piri, a Dutch center-left EU lawmaker who sponsored the non-binding resolution, told the plenary in Strasbourg.
She accused Erdogan of a “witchhunt against his critics,” referring to what the EU says is a crackdown on dissidents, the collapse of an independent judiciary and a turn toward authoritarianism that are incompatible with the bloc’s values of democracy and freedom of speech.
Ankara dismissed the vote as meaningless. Turkish ruling AK Party spokesman Omer Celik called it “worthless, invalid and disreputable.”
Turkish foreign ministry said it expected the EP to take objective decisions and to adapt a constructive stance to contribute to Turkey’s EU accession process.
The parliament adopted its stance two days before EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is set to meet Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Brussels to discuss bilateral relations.
The EU process is not formally frozen but was faltering even before Erdogan’s purge of suspected plotters of a failed coup attempt in 2016 and his broadsides against Europe in 2017, comparing the Dutch and German governments to Nazis.
The negotia1tions, launched in 2005 after decades of Turkey seeking a formal start to an EU membership bid, dovetailed with Erdogan’s first economic reforms in power as prime minister from 2003.
Today, EU officials say limits on press freedoms, mass jailing and shrinking civil rights make it almost impossible at the present time for Turkey to meet EU joining criteria.
Lawmakers acknowledged that the bloc relies on Turkey as a NATO ally on Europe’s southern flank, while an EU deal with Ankara has halted the influx of Syrian refugees into the bloc.
“Nobody denies the important role that Turkey plays, in particular in the migration crisis and the war in Syria. But that doesn’t mean Europe can be hostage to a system that criticizes everyone who thinks differently,” Portuguese center-left EU lawmaker Liliana Rodrigues said.
Two German journalists left Turkey on Sunday after authorities rejected their media accreditation, a step that drew condemnation from Germany’s foreign minister and stoked diplomatic tension.


Supporters say Manning in ‘solitary confinement’: WikiLeaks probe

In this file photo taken on May 24, 2018, former US soldier Chelsea Manning speaks during the C2 conference in Montreal, Canada. (AFP)
Updated 46 min 12 sec ago
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Supporters say Manning in ‘solitary confinement’: WikiLeaks probe

  • The Chelsea Resists group said confinement was having a toll on her mental health, evoking her experience when in 2013, as then-Army Private Bradley Manning, she was sentenced to 35 years in prison

WASHINGTON: Chelsea Manning, the anti-secrecy campaigner who was jailed for refusing to testify to a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks, has been held in solitary confinement for over two weeks, supporters said Saturday.
Since being sent to a detention center in Alexandria, Virginia earlier this month, “Chelsea has been placed in administrative segregation... a term designed to sound less cruel than ‘solitary confinement,’” the Chelsea Resists group said.
“However, Chelsea has been kept in her cell for 22 hours a day.
“Chelsea can’t be out of her cell while any other prisoners are out, so she cannot talk to other people, or visit the law library, and has no access to books or reading material. She has not been outside for 16 days,” they added.
“Keeping her under these conditions for over 15 days amounts to torture, possibly in an attempt to coerce her into compliance with the Grand Jury.”
Manning, who was convicted in 2013 of leaking more than 700,000 classified US documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to WikiLeaks, was ruled in contempt of court on March 8 after rejecting a court demand that she testify in the WikiLeaks probe.
The transgender woman, 31, cited “ethical” objections to the grand jury system.
“I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been historically used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech,” she said at the time.
The Chelsea Resists group said confinement was having a toll on her mental health, evoking her experience when in 2013, as then-Army Private Bradley Manning, she was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
At that time she spent time in solitary and attempted suicide twice, before her sentence was commuted in 2017 by president Barack Obama.
She has argued that since the grand jury investigation is officially secret, it is not clear what they want to learn from her about WikiLeaks’ activities in 2010 that she hasn’t recounted in her earlier trial.
In a previously secret court filing unsealed this week, Manning’s lawyers said she “reasonably believes that the current administration is unhappy with her release [in 2016], and seeks to punish her further by using any means at their disposal to incarcerate her.”