Turkey, Politics

Turkish PM plays down EU chief's arrest criticisms

Binali Yildirim dismisses European Parliament chief's condemnation of Monday's detention of newspaper journalists

Turkish PM plays down EU chief's arrest criticisms Turkish Prime Minister and the leader of Turkey's ruling party, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Binali Yildirim speak during AK Party's group meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) in Ankara, Turkey on November 01, 2016. (Mehmet Ali Özcan - Anadolu Agency)


Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Tuesday played down a critical remark by the head of the European Parliament over the detention of journalists on terror charges.

On Monday, Martin Schulz, the European Parliament’s president, reacted to that day’s arrest of 11 journalists from the Cumhuriyet daily in Istanbul and Ankara.

Referring to the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, he tweeted: “The detention of Murat Sabuncu and other #Cumhuriyet journalists is yet another red-line crossed against freedom of expression in #Turkey.”

However, Yildirim rejected the criticism. “Brother, we will not look at your red line,” he told a Justice and Development (AK) Party parliamentary group meeting in Ankara. “For us, the nation draws the red line. What impact do your red lines have?”

The suspects have been charged with membership of terrorist organizations, namely the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) and the PKK, and with committing crimes on their behalf.

Death penalty

Earlier, Devlet Bahceli, leader of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), had addressed his party members and pledged to support any government bill to reintroduce the death penalty, which has climbed the political agenda since the July 15 coup attempt.

“If the AK Party is ready, the MHP is more than willing to do that,” he said in televised comments.

Yildirim added: “If we can reach a mutual understanding with the other political parties a limited regulation, which is to the people’s general desire, may be made.”

To introduce a referendum on the constitutional change needed to bring back the death penalty, the government, which has 316 parliamentary deputies, would need the support of at least 14 other lawmakers. The MHP has 40 seats.

Since the coup was defeated there have been repeated public calls for bringing back hanging and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and government ministers have expressed their support for its return.

“We will not turn a deaf ear to the people’s demand and clamor,” Yildirim said.

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