Turkey’s two-year state of emergency came to an end at midnight on Wednesday, but as trials of dissidents and journalists continue human rights campaigners have said Ankara must do more to reverse a “suffocating” crackdown on free speech.
Critics say the state of emergency, in place since a failed coup attempt in July 2016 that killed 250 people and wounded 1,400, has been used to detain opponents of the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and his government for lengthy periods without trial and to intimidate dissidents and prosecute media outlets.
More than 120,000 people in the police, military, academia, media and civil service have been detained or dismissed from their jobs over their alleged links to Fethullah Gülen, an exiled preacher based in the US whose supporters Ankara blames for the coup.
“Over the last two years, Turkey has been radically transformed with emergency measures used to consolidate draconian powers, silence critical voices and strip away basic rights,” said Fotis Filippou, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe.
“The lifting of the state of emergency alone will not reverse this crackdown. What is needed is systematic action to restore respect for human rights, allow civil society to flourish again and lift the suffocating climate of fear that has engulfed the country.”
Turkey’s government has said it will not seek a renewal of the state of emergency, allowing it to lapse two years after it was imposed and days after Erdoğan was sworn in as president for a fresh five-year term with extraordinary new powers narrowly approved in a referendum last year.
Critics say the use of the emergency powers went beyond Gülenists linked to the coup. About a quarter of Turkey’s judges have either been dismissed or detained, a vast realignment of the judiciary that has prompted outrage and concerns that it is no longer independent.
Thousands have been tried, with many sentenced to life, for involvement in the coup and 100 people have been extradited to Turkey at the behest of the country’s intelligence service, the MİT.
The crackdown has also increased tensions with western allies such as the EU and the US. On Wednesday a court in the city of İzmir ruled for the continued detention of Andrew Brunson, an American pastor accused of having Gülenist links, in a move that could prompt congressional sanction and that was described by an official at the US Commission on International Religious Freedom as a “mockery of justice”.
Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) party has tabled a controversial anti-terrorism bill that will retain some of the state of emergency measures. One provision allows local governors to impose curfews or make some areas off-limits to the public, making it easier to ban demonstrations.
The government also appears determined to continue its prosecutions of journalists and opponents.
“Because now in the new system all state power is [held] by President Erdoğan, there is no need [for] emergency law,” said Pelin Ünker, an economy correspondent at Cumhuriyet, Turkey’s oldest newspaper, who is being sued because of her and a colleague’s reporting on the former prime minister Binali Yıldırım’s sons’ stake in offshore shipping companies, revealed in the Paradise Papers.
Turkey is the world’s biggest jailer of journalists, ahead of China and Egypt, with more than 120 imprisoned since the coup attempt. Cumhuriyet journalists have been prosecuted in numerous court cases, with some, including the current editor-in-chief, appealing against convictions of up to seven-and-a-half years in jail.
Erdoğan’s son-in-law and finance minister, Berat Albayrak, is also suing the journalists because of their reporting on offshore investments listed in the Paradise Papers, a move that the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders condemned as threatening the survival of independent media outlets reporting on corruption.
“Independent media outlets are fewer now than the fingers on one hand,” said Ünker. “Journalism is our job so we have to do it in all conditions, even in the face of such duress and injustice.”
But the crackdown appeared to have barely slowed even as the end of the state of emergency approached. A day before Erdoğan was sworn in, another 18,600 public servants were dismissed over alleged links to terror groups, and on Tuesday academics who had signed a petition calling for a peaceful resolution of the conflict with Kurdish separatists were sentenced to prison.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the largest opposition bloc, the Republican People’s party (CHP), vowed in a party congress to challenge what he described as a “dictatorship” and one-man rule. But on Wednesday the government said it was launching an investigation against Kılıçdaroğlu for insulting the president, an allegation frequently used to intimidate critics, over a cartoon mocking the Turkish president that was shared on social media.
The continued prosecutions offer a hint that, even though Erdoğan is secure in his control of the state’s levers of power and authority, there will be little immediate relief for dissidents.
“I think state of emergency has served its purpose, both politically and practically,” said Selim Can Sazak, a Turkey expert and adjunct fellow at the Century Foundation. “The job is almost complete. Hundreds of thousands purged. Some Gülenists, apparently, but many others not. Universities, bureaucracy, media, etc, largely subdued.”
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US Supreme Court Upholds Abortion Clinic Protest Zone Limits In Chicago, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday left in place policies in Chicago and Pennsylvania’s capital Harrisburg that place limits on anti-abortion activists gathered outside abortion clinics.
The justices declined to hear two appeals by anti-abortion groups and individual activists of lower court rulings upholding the cities’ ordinances.
The Chicago policy bars activists from coming within eight feet (2.4 meters) of someone within 50 feet (15 meters) of any healthcare facility without their consent if they intend to protest, offer counseling or hand out leaflets. The Harrisburg measure bars people from congregating or demonstrating within 20 feet (6 meters) of a healthcare facility’s entrance or exit.
Both cases pitted the free speech rights of anti-abortion protesters against public safety concerns raised by women’s healthcare providers regarding demonstrations outside clinics. There is a history of violent acts committed against abortion providers.
At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the ordinances violate free speech rights protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year upheld the Chicago ordinance, which was introduced in 2009. The Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Harrisburg in 2019. That measure was enacted in response to disruptions by protesters outside two abortion clinics in the city.
The cases did not directly implicate abortion rights. In a major ruling on Monday, the struck down a Louisiana law placing restrictions on doctors that perform abortions.
Also on Thursday, the court directed a lower court to reconsider the legality of two Indiana abortion restrictions – one that would require women to undergo an ultrasound procedure at least 18 hours before terminating a pregnancy and another that would expand parental notification when a minor seeks an abortion. The lower court had struck down both measures.
Abortion remains a divisive issue in the United States. The Supreme Court in its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalized abortion nationwide, finding that women have a constitutional right to the procedure. In recent years, numerous Republican-governed states have sought to impose a series of restrictions on abortion.
Federal Judge Reverses Trump Asylum Policy Due To Government Failing To Abide By Administrative Procedure Act
(Law & Crime) — A federal judge appointed by President Donald Trump on Tuesday evening overturned the Trump Administration’s second and most restrictive asylum policy, all because the government failed to abide by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the judge reasoned.
In a 52-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly of Washington, D.C. held that in enacting the rule, which required immigrants to seek asylum in any country they passed through before they could claim asylum in the U.S., the Trump administration “unlawfully dispensed” with mandatory procedural requirements allowing the public to weigh in on proposed rule changes.
Kelly, who was appointed to the court in 2017, rejected the Trump administration’s assertion that the asylum rule fell within exceptions to the APA permitting the government to disregard the notice-and-comment requirement if there’s “good cause” such commentary is unnecessary or if the rule involves a military or foreign affairs function.
“[The court] also holds that Defendants unlawfully promulgated the rule without complying with the APA’s notice-and-comment requirements, because neither the ‘good cause’ nor the ‘foreign affairs function’ exceptions are satisfied on the record here,” Kelly wrote. “Despite their potentially broad sweep, the D.C. Circuit has instructed that these exceptions must be ‘narrowly construed’ and ‘reluctantly countenanced.’ The Circuit has also emphasized that the broader a rule’s reach, ‘the greater the necessity for public comment.’ With these baseline principles in mind, the Court considers whether either the good cause or foreign affairs function exception applies here. Neither does.”
According to Kelly, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) generally allows any person physically in the U.S. seeking refuge to apply for asylum — with some exceptions for immigrants who have committed certain crimes or who had previously been “firmly resettled” prior to arriving in the U.S.
“The Court reiterates that there are many circumstances in which courts appropriately defer to the national security judgments of the Executive. But determining the scope of an APA exception is not one of them,” Kelly wrote. “As noted above, if engaging in notice-and-comment rulemaking before implementing the rule would have harmed ongoing international negotiations, Defendants could have argued that these effects gave them good cause to forgo these procedures. And they could have provided an adequate factual record to support those predictive judgments to which the Court could defer. But they did not do so.”
Claudia Cubas, the Litigation Director at CAIR Coalition, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, praised the decision as removing an “unjust barrier to protection” for those in need.
“By striking down this rule, Judge Kelly reaffirmed two fundamental principles. The protection of asylum seekers fleeing for safety is intertwined with our national values and that the United States is a country where the rule of law cannot be tossed aside for political whims,” Cubas said.
Read the full opinion below:
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