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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Perils of Playing Politics With History |

From the New York Times today:
By criminalizing the denial of genocide in Armenia, France followed the examples of Switzerland and Slovenia and helped sharpen a parallel debate in Israel. But in alienating Turkey — an increasingly sharp-elbowed NATO ally and regional player — the French authorities seemed to place political considerations at home ahead of perils abroad, risking criticism of their own cherished identity as a bastion of liberté.

“This bill, if implemented, would have a chilling effect on public debate and contravene France’s international obligation to uphold freedom of expression,” said Nicola Duckworth of Amnesty International.

The Perils of Playing Politics With History -

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Massive demonstrations in Istanbul

I'm a couple of days behind, but there were massive demonstrations in Istanbul to protest the verdicts in the Hrant Dink case. Dink was an Armenian-Turkish publicist who was shot dead in 2007. Three of the 19 charged with being involved were recently found guilty (the shooter got 22 years behind bars), but all charged were acquitted of being part of a larger conspiracy and the court found no evidence of state negligence.

Protesters carried signs that said "Hepimiz Hrant'ız" and "Hepimiz Ermeniyiz!" ("We're all Hrant" and "We're all Armenian!")

Amnesty International issued a highly critical comment on the verdict and many Turks were spurred to protest as well.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

S&P On Europe -

Paul Krugman comments on the reason for S&P's downgrade of Eurozone countries and, more worryingly, the EU's response:

S&P’s downgrade of a bunch of European sovereigns was no surprise. What was somewhat surprising — and which went unmentioned in almost all the news stories I’ve read — was why S&P has gotten so pessimistic. From their FAQs:
We also believe that the agreement [the latest euro rescue plan] is predicated on only a partial recognition of the source of the crisis: that the current financial turmoil stems primarily from fiscal profligacy at the periphery of the eurozone. In our view, however, the financial problems facing the eurozone are as much a consequence of rising external imbalances and divergences in competitiveness between the EMU’s core and the so-called “periphery”. As such, we believe that a reform process based on a pillar of fiscal austerity alone risks becoming self-defeating, as domestic demand falls in line with consumers’ rising concerns about job security and disposable incomes, eroding national tax revenues.
And today we read about the response:
German chancellor Angela Merkel has called on eurozone governments speedily to implement tough new fiscal rules after Standard & Poor’s downgraded the credit ratings of France and Austria and seven other second-tier sovereigns.
Still barreling down the road to nowhere.

For some reason, I just keep thinking of a scene from Nemo, the Disney film (yes, I have little kids), in which the two little fish Dora and Marlin swim straight down into the dark abyss, into the arms of a monster.

All the while, they hum "just keep swimming, just keep swimming!"...

S&P On Europe -

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Turkish journalists denounce trials | EurActiv

From EurActiv:
Turkey is currently holding nearly 100 members of the news media in jail, one of the highest numbers worldwide, in a crackdown that critics and human rights groups say blights the country's image as a role model for democracy in the Middle East.

Prominent Turkish journalists on trial for alleged links to an underground anti-government network called the conspiracy charges against them "political" in a case that has raised concerns over media freedom in Turkey.
Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık, investigative journalists arrested in March and held since then in a top-security prison outside Istanbul, were among 14 defendants in court to open their defence on Thursday (5 January).

Turkey is currently holding nearly 100 members of the news media in jail, one of the highest numbers worldwide, in a crackdown that critics and human rights groups say blights the country's image as a role model for democracy in the Middle East.

Turkish journalists denounce trials | EurActiv

Sunday, January 8, 2012

European Parliament's Opinion on Turkey Progress Report

Follow this link to get to an online version of the European Parliament's (EP) recently enacted resolution on the Commission's 2011 Progress Report on Turkey. (I can't find it on the Parliament's own pages.)

It contains important and appropriate criticism, of which I have excerpted some of the most significant portions below. The problem, of course, is that due to the EU's past and current treatment of Turkey, the Progress Reports and the EP's opinions receive less and less attention in Turkey. So at a time when penetrating criticism is arguably needed urgently, the EU's "normative power" over Turkey is weaker than in decades. In the words of the prominent columnist Mehmet Ali Birand:
relations have dropped to their lowest level. Turkey is not on Europe’s agenda anymore. Europe is not on Turkey’s agenda either.

It has gone back to such an extent that for the first time in 47 years, the influence of the EU over Turkish politics has reached almost zero. In the past, voices, critics and warnings coming from Europe would be taken into utmost consideration; moreover, domestic politics would be adjusted to the EU’s conditions and rules.

Today, Ankara does not pay attention to either the Council of Europe or the European Parliament.
The reports used to be the top story in Turkish news for weeks, now they are mentioned and dropped. And this particular silence is not a result of phone calls from the Prime Minister.

For what it is worth, then, here are some key resolutions in the opinion:
9. Reiterates its concern that judicial procedural norms have not yet been improved sufficiently to ensure the right to a fair and timely trial, including the right to access incriminating evidence in the early phases of the proceedings and sufficient guarantees for all suspects; expresses great concern at the duration of pre-trial detention, with the latter becoming de-facto punishment without a trial; urges the TGNA to reform legislation on pre-trial detention bringing maximum pre-trial detention periods in Turkey in line with average pre-trial detention periods in the European Union;

10. Stresses that investigations of alleged coup plans, such as the ‘Ergenekon’ and ‘Sledgehammer’ cases, must demonstrate the strength and the proper, independent, impartial and transparent functioning of Turkish democratic institutions and the judiciary and their firm, unconditional commitment to the respect of fundamental rights;

11. Reiterates its concern on the practice of bringing criminal prosecutions against journalists who communicate evidence of human rights violations or raise other issues in the public interest as a contribution to the debate of a pluralistic society; considers the criminalisation of opinions as a key obstacle to the protection of human rights in Turkey and deplores disproportionate restriction of the freedoms of expression, association and assembly;

12. Urges Turkey to comply rigorously with its international human rights obligations in this respect by amending its relevant legislation and by training its police and judiciary; welcomes in this regard the decision to provide judges and prosecutors with in-service training on freedom of expression and freedom of the press and on the fundamental role of the European Court of Human Rights;

13. Recalls that freedom of expression and media pluralism are at the heart of European values and that a truly democratic, free and pluralistic society requires true freedom of expression; underlines that reform of legislation allowing for disproportionately high fines on the media – leading in some cases to their closure or to self-censorship by journalists or their editors – and of law 5651/2007 on the internet, which limits freedom of expression, restricts citizens’ right to access to information and allows websites bans of disproportionate scope and duration, is very urgent;

Friday, January 6, 2012

Coup-plotting allegations in Turkey: Bugged out | The Economist

Interesting piece on the latest Ergonekon developments in the current issue of the Economist.

With the arrest of a former chief of Turkey's general staff, Ilker Başbuğ, the Economist quotes the former US ambassador to Turkey, Eric Adelman, who knew Başbuğ. According to Adelman, the move to jail Başbuğ will
"underscore the serious questions about Turkey's continued commitment to press freedom and the rule of law." That commitment is waning. Nearly 500 students are in prison facing "terrorism" charges for such infractions as demanding free education. Some 97 journalists have also been imprisoned, many on similarly absurd grounds.
Mr Erdoğan's increasingly authoritarian ways have prompted claims that his government has simply swapped places with the army. His supporters have a different worry. They say that having purged the old guard in the military, he is now cutting deals with the new set.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Former President and coup leader Kenan Evren indicted

Turkish prosecutors have indicted former Turkish President and Chief of Staff, Gen. Kenan Evren for his role in the 1980 military coup. Gen. Evren and Gen. Tahsin Şahinkaya had been protected by the provisional article 15 of the Turkish constitution that was established after the coup, but with the repeal of the article the path toward the indictment was cleared.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
There is still doubt as to whether the statute of limitations has expired. Counting from the time of the coup, it has, but the prosecutor claims that the deadline should be calculated starting from when the constitution was amended instead.

Some links:

In Turkish:
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