Turkey must take steps over symbolic arrests - pro-government columnist

Four Turkish ministers who met this week to discuss reforms for Turkey’s bid to join the European Union acknowledged the importance of what pro-government columnist Abdülkadir Selvi called symbolic arrests that were harming it chances of joining the bloc.

The ministers, part of the Turkish government’s Reform Action Group, which met for the first time since 2015 on Wednesday, attempted to breathe new life into Ankara’s dormant bid to join the EU, part of a drive to draw closer to the bloc after the United States imposed sanctions on Turkey this month over its detention of U.S. citizens.

Selvi said in his column in the Hürriyet newspaper that Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül, Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu underlined the importance of taking steps over what he called symbolic arrests in order to strengthen Turkey’s hand in its relations with the EU.

“They will tell us ‘remove the barriers against freedom of expression and the press’, ‘end the detainment of symbolic names’. Because political criteria are an absolute must for the EU,” Selvi said. 

The columnist referred to the cases against civil society activist Osman Kavala who has been in prison since October 2017 on charges of trying to overthrow the government, and Enis Berberoğlu, a former journalist and a opposition member of parliament, who was sentenced to nearly six years in jail for revealing classified information.

Tens of thousands of people have been jailed in Turkey in a widespread crackdown against government opponents of all stripes since a failed 2016 military coup the administration blames on followers of its Islamist former ally Fethullah Gülen, who lives in the United States.

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