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LONDON: The director of Amnesty International’s Europe office has called for a harder line against Turkey’s human rights violations, saying “the time for delay and dithering is over” in holding the country accountable.

“Turkey’s disregard for human rights has recently become particularly brazen,” said Nils Muiznieks.

“It is not only jailing innocent journalists, human rights defenders, protesting students and social media activists, it is also ramping up political persecution and ignoring European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rulings to release people unjustly imprisoned.

“It is time for European governments to ratchet up the pressure and demand Turkey’s compliance with its obligations and not be blinded by the lofty statements in the long-awaited human rights action plan announced by President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan on 2 March.”

Muiznieks added: “The deep erosion in the justice system can only be reversed through a root and branch reform.”

Turkey is a member of the Council of Europe, and has long “gone through the motions of cooperating with the ECtHR,” he said, adding that Ankara’s refusal to budge on two high-profile cases of human rights abuses that have made their way through the European court system has driven a diplomatic wedge between the country and its European neighbors.

“A stark sign of disengagement from ‘business as usual’ for Turkey has been its refusal to release two leading figures who have been wrongly imprisoned for more than three and four years respectively — Osman Kavala, a philanthropist and pillar of Turkish civil society, and Selahattin Demirtaş, a political opposition leader, both of whom I know personally.”

The ECtHR, Muiznieks said, had found that both of these detentions “were cases of political persecution.”

Pan-European organizations such as the Committee of Ministers — a body consisting of the foreign ministers of all EU member states — have called repeatedly for Kavala’s release.

“Turkey’s response has been to spit in the face of the rest of Europe by slapping new, unfounded charges on both men, demonstrating the clearly political nature of the cases,” said Muiznieks.

“These ‘fantastical’ accusations against Kavala would be laughable were their use to deprive him of his freedom not so utterly unjust.”

Muiznieks said the EU should launch “infringement proceedings” against Turkey and launch an inquiry into Ankara’s failure to implement legally binding ECtHR rulings.

“The Turkish authorities have shown that no amount of dialogue will free these men,” he added. “It is impossible to pretend that Turkey continues to cooperate and fulfil its obligations in good faith.”

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