Ankara has presented Libya with 30 free police vehicles and 6,000 police uniforms as part of a host of Turkish efforts to help train the North African country’s law enforcement officers.
Speaking at a ceremony yesterday in Tripoli, Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan said 1,500 Libyan police would be trained in Turkey between March and July.
The training will not be limited solely to policemen, but will also include training for Libya’s judges, prosecutors and employees at corrections facilities, he added.
“Aside from training and education, we have reached an understanding with Libya in many different areas,” said Çağlayan, adding that the two sides had discussed collaboration in energy, transportation, communication, airlines, trade and exports.
“Our only wish is that free Libya fulfills its development expectations on the social and economic front,” he said.
Gaza’s Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is in Turkey on his first official tour outside the blockaded territory.
His talks with Turkey’s premier come as his host’s relations with Israel deteriorate after last year’s raid on a Turkish aid ship.
Nine activists died in the incident when Israeli comandos boarded the Gaza-bound Turkish vessel to prevent it breaching Israel’s blockade of the strip. Haniyeh’s visit is set to include a meeting with the familes of the dead activists.
The European Commission’s representative in Turkey, Marc Pierini commented on the new charter process, saying that the next constitution will be a historic opportunity to accommodate major problems.
Writing a new constitution will be a historic opportunity to accommodate Turkey’s major problems, like the Kurdish issue and the coexistence of conflicting lifestyles, according to a top EU envoy. It took a long time for Europeans to solve similar problems, said Marc Pierini, European Commission’s representative in Turkey, in reference to the Kurdish issue.
“The solution was 100 percent political, not a military solution,” Pierini said, talking to a group of journalists on Oct. 21. “The new constitution is the major vehicle to solve Turkey’s major problems.”
Turkey is following the correct methodology to write a new constitution, according to Pierini. The methodology employed in the previous effort to change the constitution, which ended with amendments being put to referendum, was a poor one, he said. “It was a single party proposal. The choice was between the one offered by the government and the one of the military coup. That’s why we said it was a right step in the right direction. The other parties had not offered an alternative. So far so good,” said Pierini talking about the fact that four parties are equally represented on the commission that will draft the charter and adding that it was extremely positive that the ruling party did not offer its own proposal to the commission.
“The next constitution will be a historic opportunity to accommodate major problems like the Kurdish issue and coexistence between lifestyles,” he said after mentioning the terror attack that took place on the first day the Preparatory Constitution Commission met to begin work. Pierini said it took decades to solve similar problems in Europe.
When asked about Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s criticism of insufficient support coming from the EU in the fight against terror, Pierini said, “His convictions are based on past experience during the course of the last 10 years. But there has been improvement in the course of the last two-three years. But these are technical issues and it is not like instant coffee, it takes time for them to be effective.”
Pierini said Turkey’s image in the Middle East would be shaped by the type of constitution that it will have. While some constituencies in the region look to Turkey as a better example than Iran, not all look to Turkey as a model, he said. “I am not sure whether some religious minorities in Egypt or Tunsia or if Egyptian diplomacy is looking to Turkey as a model,” he said.
Turkey and the EU’s convergence rate on foreign policy issues has fallen below 50 percent, while there has been times when it was 70 percent, Pierini said. “We sent our statement on foreign policy issues to Turkey with two hours notice on whether it would like to participate in the statement,” he said. Turkey wants to be consulted in advance and it therefore makes a case by not accepting the statement, according to Pierini.
Turkey’s new charter commission has come together for the first time yesterday, following the deadly attacks on security forces by the PKK. “We will carry our responsibilities with common sense,” said Cemil Çiçek, who reportedly will be the chairman of the commission.
Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek vowed yesterday that a landmark drive to rewrite Turkey’s constitution would go ahead despite escalating violence in the southeast as he kicked off the first meeting of the Preparatory Constitution Commission tasked with drafting the new charter.
The deadly attacks on security forces by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Hakkari province that claimed at least 24 lives overshadowed “a historic day,” Çiçek said in opening remarks at the 12-member cross-party commission.
“No matter how great our pain is, we will suppress it. There is no turning back, regardless of how much the developing circumstances are making our task harder. Those developments maybe an attempt to discourage us from our way,” he said. “We will carry out our responsibilities with calm, prudence and common sense, sticking to law and democracy.”
Speaking to journalists after the closed-door session, Çiçek said a four-member sub-commission had been set up to outline the procedural rules under which the commission’ would work.
The sub-commission, comprised of Ahmet İyimaya of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Atilla Kart of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Oktay Öztürk of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Ayla Akat Ata of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), will prepare a draft by Oct. 24.
In their opening remarks at the meeting, all opposition representatives called for democratic reforms to be carried out simultaneously with the drafting of the new constitution.
CHP’s Kart said the new constitution should reflect the spirit of the time, calling for simultaneous amendments in the electoral law, political parties law, the abolition of special-authority courts, and a solution to the problem of imprisoned deputies.
Voicing sorrow over the killed soldiers, the BDP’s Akat said the Kurdish issue remained Turkey’s most urgent problem. The new constitution will be a first step towards a settlement, she said, suggesting also “confidence-boosting” amendments in the penal code, the anti-terror law and the political parties law
“A new constitution is not enough. The government should show utmost care for democracy. If this commission managed to gather despite the current events, it should be able to continue working free from daily politics,” Ata said.
AKP representative Mehmet Ali Şahin condemned the PKK attack, pledging that, “the parties’ representatives in Parliament will work with determination more than ever.”
Implying that open-ended debates on the new charter would be futile, he said, “We should not sacrifice the spirit of reconciliation to daily political debates.”
The MHP’s Faruk Bal said the new charter should keep the first three articles of the current constitution “which unites the state and the nation and associates the republic with democracy.” He said a new constitution would not be a “magic wand” to rectify all problems and called for parallel amendments in the electoral and political parties laws.
During the closed-door session, Çiçek requested commission members not to speak to journalists about the content of their meetings, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned. On the other hand, commission members reportedly agreed that Çiçek would be the chairman of the commission. They also agreed on a rotating chairmanship when the speaker is absent. Some members suggested a constitutional status for the commission, sources said.
Eleven former Palestinian released by Israel arrived in Ankara yesterday. Amina Muna, known as the ‘Internet assassin,’ unexpectedly joined the group at the last minute after she refused to go to Gaza.
A Palestinian woman convicted of luring a love-struck Israeli boy into a fatal trap set by militants arrived in Ankara with 10 others yesterday after unexpectedly refusing to go to Gaza following her release as part of a Hamas-Israeli prisoner swap.
Amina Muna, a member of al-Fatah, joined 10 Palestinian men released from Israeli jails this week on the flight from Cairo to Ankara, where they were met by Palestinian Ambassador to Ankara Nabil Maarouf and Turkish Foreign Ministry officials. Only the 10 men were expected in Ankara, but Muna was added to the passenger list at the last moment when she refused to go to Gaza, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.
The arrivals made the V-for-victory signs when they disembarked their plane at Esenboğa Airport and prostrated themselves in an Islamic religious gesture of gratitude. Speaking at the airport after their arrival, Maarouf said the ex-prisoners would undergo a health check-up and added that Turkish authorities would decide where the Palestinians would stay in Turkey and for how long. Turkish officials are planning to keep the arrivals out of the public eye to protect their security.
The 11 Palestinians were among the first batch of 477 detainees freed on Oct. 18 after Israel agreed to release over 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was held in captivity by Hamas for over five years. Forty of the 477 were deemed too dangerous to remain on Israel’s doorstep and were sent into exile. In addition to Muna, former female prisoner Wafa al-Bass also refused to go to Gaza, causing a delay in the implementation of the swap agreement.
Palestine minister thanks Turkey
Muna, who is known as the “Internet assassin,” was jailed for life in 2003 for luring Israeli teenager Ofir Rahum, 16, into believing that she was a newly arrived American. In 2001 Muna allegedly persuaded him to meet her in Jerusalem where she drove him to the outskirts of the West Bank city of Ramallah where two al-Fatah members, Hassan al-Qadi and Abdul Fattah Dawla, allegedly shot him at close range. Meanwhile, Palestine Economy Minister Hasan Abu-Libdeh told the Daily News yesterday that they were thankful to the Turkish people and government for receiving Turkey’s constant support in political and economic terms. “Turkey has opened its arms to [Palestinians released in exchange for Shalit]; we always need Turkey’s open arms,” Abu-Libdeh said in Istanbul, adding that Turkey had made significant contributions in the swap deal. Turkey’s support to the Palestinians will continue until the embargo against Gaza ends, Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan said.
Nurdan Bozkurt contributed to this report from Istanbul.
Appalled by the killing of 24 security members in simultaneous terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) attacks in the southeastern province of Hakkari on Wednesday, top state officials, party leaders and civil society organizations condemned PKK violence while calling on the nation to show restraint.
President Abdullah Gül said those who caused this pain will be met with retaliation as he vowed a “great revenge” for the attacks. “Those who caused us to suffer this pain will suffer equally. Those who assume that they can shake the Turkish state in this way will see that our revenge for these attacks will be great. They will eventually see that they cannot wage a war against the Turkish state. Those who aid them should also learn their lessons and endure the consequences of this. The whole world should know that Turkey will go ahead with its fight against terrorism with determination until the very end. Turkey will never be shaken,” Gül told reporters in the wake of the attacks.
Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek, who spoke to reporters ahead of a meeting of the parliamentary constitutional commission, condemned terror. He said the attacks cast a shadow over the commission’s eagerness to start working on a new constitution, but he added that Turkey cannot take a step back in its efforts to make a new constitution.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called on the nation to act with common sense in the face of Wednesday’s terrorist attacks, underscoring that expanding human rights and democracy in the country is the antidote to terror.
Erdoğan called a press conference Wednesday afternoon and confirmed the death toll in a series of attacks by the PKK in the southeastern province of Hakkari. He said 24 soldiers and policemen were killed in the attacks, and 18 others were injured.
“Everyone, both the enemies and friends of Turkey, should know that Turkey will never surrender to any attack, never take a step back and will never sacrifice even the slightest part of the country’s soil. Those who target the peace and stability of this country will find this government and the whole nation against them,” Erdoğan said.
The prime minister added, “Whoever lends explicit or implicit support to the terrorist PKK, aids or shows tolerance to the PKK and is careless about the inhumane attacks by the PKK will feel the Turkish state’s breath on their neck.” Noting that the recent acts of terrorism show that the PKK is a tool of “dark forces that are targeting peace and brotherhood in Turkey,” he said these attacks aim to provoke the Turkish people.
“If anyone fails to control his anger in the face of this painful incident, the terrorist organization will attain its goal. But we will not lose our patience and calmness,” he said.
Recalling that the attacks took place on the same day as Parliament was scheduled to begin working on a new constitution, Erdoğan said this incident will not prevent Turkey from going ahead with these efforts. “We know that the fight against terrorism is a long-running process. We know that the antidote for terror is human rights and democracy,” Erdoğan added. He also said Turkey expects full support and active cooperation from the international community in its counterterrorism efforts. The prime minister also targeted the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), whom he criticizes for not calling the PKK a terrorist organization. “Those who cannot declare the PKK a terrorist organization cannot contribute to this process. The word ‘peace’ does not even befit their mouths. The word ‘peace’ befits those who really long for peace,” Erdoğan said.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu called on the Turkish government led by Erdoğan to resign in the wake of the killing of 24 soldiers and policemen in Hakkari. The CHP chairman called a press conference at CHP headquarters on Wednesday and blamed PM Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) for the recent spike in terrorist attacks in the country. “A prime minister should not hold others responsible for that. He should know his responsibilities. He is not the leader of the opposition party. He is governing the country. I am pointing out that the one responsible for our martyrs is the ruling AK Party and Prime Minister Erdoğan at the helm of it,” he said.
Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), called on the government to re-introduce emergency rule in southeastern Anatolia, almost a decade after its abolishment, because of increasing terrorist attacks by the PKK. He said in a statement that emergency rule should be imposed on provinces in the wake of Wednesday’s attacks.
Turkey first imposed emergency rule, known by its Turkish acronym OHAL, in several southeastern provinces in 1987 in response to PKK attacks in the region. OHAL meant a high number of troops being deployed to the region, regular checkpoints, curfews and a lack of recourse to courts. OHAL was only completely ended in 2002.
Turkey’s civil society also raised its voice against the PKK violence on Wednesday. Dozens of non-governmental organizations and labor unions such as the Independent Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (MÜSİAD), the Diyarbakır Entrepreneur and Businessmen’s Association (DİGİAD), the Turkish Confederation of Employers’ Unions (TİSK) and the Çukurova Journalists’ Association (ÇGC) released statements condemning PKK terrorism and offering their condolences to the families of the slain security personnel.
19 October 2011, Wednesday / TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL
Turkey’s new charter must be created in a spirit of reconciliation and democracy, according to foreign legal scholars from countries that have all created new constitutions in extraordinary circumstances in the past.
“The new constitution of Turkey should be issued with the highest reconciliation possible, by including all layers of society and all political actors in the process. Such a constitution will come out in consequence of a democratic, transparent, and participatory process, and constitutes the beginning of a new culture of living together in Turkey,” Michael Meier, a Turkish representative of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung institute (FES), told participants at a conference that was held Oct. 15 at Istanbul Bilgi University. “Adding life to the content of the constitution is in the charge of every citizen of Turkey because the new constitution will be a constitution that places the people of Turkey in the center.”
Meier was joined by a number of academics, including Professor Herta Däubler-Gmelin, who is a former German Justice Minister; Professor Carles Viver Pi-Suner of Barcelona University; Albie Sachs, the former member of South Africa’s constitutional court; Professor Miroslaw Wyrzykowski, a former member of Poland’s constitutional court; and Turkish professors Mithat Sancar and Turgut Tarhanlı.
Regarding the mother tongue debates in his country, Sachs said there were now 11 official languages in South Africa.
“Mother tongue in education is encouraged in my country. It is an advantage for the education system,” Sachs said after the conference.
He also said sustainable growth was very important for a constitution as it should address economic rights, housing, education, welfare, food and water.
According to Sachs, women’s issues should be a very strong component of a constitution and should include fundamental rights in a nonsexist way. “Freedom of speech should increase rights both in the public and private sphere,” Sachs said. “The aim is to make a meaningful contribution to the process of issuing a new constitution.”
Meier said speakers were selected in line with these criteria and added that he hoped the conference, the first of its kind, would make a positive contribution to the process of creating a constitution in Turkey.
The conference was organized by Global and Local Thought Association (KUYEREL), Social Democracy Foundation (SODEV), Social Economic Political Researches Foundation of Turkey (TUSES), Istanbul Bilgi University Human Rights Law Application and Research Center, as well as FES. k HDN
Pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Co-chairwoman Gültan Kışanak said on Tuesday that the arrests of members of the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), the urban arm of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), are like political genocide, aiming to root out Kurdish politics.
Speaking at her party’s parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday, Kışanak said a total of 34 individuals were detained on Tuesday alone as part of the KCK probe.
“We are faced with a wave of political genocide,” said she said. The number of people detained in the KCK probe rose to 60 later in the day on Tuesday.
According to the party leader, Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin initially said the total number of jailed KCK suspects was 400 and later raised this figure to 600; however, there are actually 5,000 KCK suspects in jail.
“Is there any other organization [than the KCK who has had 5,000 members jailed]?” she asked.
Turkish police have recently stepped up operations against the KCK. The KCK investigation started in December 2009 and a large number of Kurdish politicians, including several mayors from the BDP, have been detained in the case.
The suspects are accused of various crimes, including membership in a terrorist organization, aiding and abetting a terrorist organization and attempting to destroy the country’s unity and integrity. The suspects include mayors and municipal officials from the BDP, which has said the investigation is the government’s method of suppressing its politicians and denies any links between the suspects and any terrorist organizations.
In her speech, Kışanak also dwelled on preparations for the new constitution and said that a constitution that does not resolve the Kurdish problem will not be a new constitution.
“Nobody should expect us to turn a blind eye to our fundamental problems [during the preparation of the new constitution,” she said.
18 October 2011, Tuesday / TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL
The Hürriyet daily published excerpts from his statement, which was given to Specially Authorized Prosecutor Fikret Seçen at the Gülhane Military Academy of Medicine (GATA) hospital, wherein Şahinkaya is receiving treatment.
The commander of the Air Force in 1980, who was one of the generals to lead the Sept. 12 coup d’état that same year, has recently told a prosecutor he has no regrets about participating in the military takeover, which he says prevented needless bloodshed, and added that he would do it again if he had to.
Retired Gen. Tahsin Şahinkaya, along with many other generals involved in the 1980 coup, recently spoke to a prosecutor who has been investigating those responsible for the coup d’état since a constitutional amendment last year made that possible.
Before the amendment was made, a temporary article in the Constitution had offered a shield to the perpetrators.
The Hürriyet daily published excerpts from his statement, which was given to Specially Authorized Prosecutor Fikret Seçen at the Gülhane Military Academy of Medicine (GATA) hospital, wherein Şahinkaya is receiving treatment.
In response to a question on how he justified staging a coup using weapons bought with the people’s money, Şahinkaya said: “We were in such a state. The country was falling apart — brothers were killing each other, the conflict between left and right-wing groups had reached a peak and we saw ourselves as people who were not doing their duties.
The entire army brass — the senior commanders down to battalions — all wanted to find a solution within the chain of command and as part of the General Staff. We did not stage a coup d’état. If it was a coup, then we wouldn’t have left the government two or three years later. We prevented bloodshed.”
He said the intervention’s legal basis was the military’s Domestic Service Law Article 35, which has also since been changed. Article 35 gave the military the authority to intervene during times of societal unrest.
In response to the prosecutor’s question as to why the generals had attempted to deny responsibility for the coup by adding the temporary Article 15 to the 1982 Constitution, the retired general said: “We didn’t add that to protect the commanders alone.
We thought it would be wrong for individuals who were on the Consultation Council [the executive body of the military government] or other civilians who were part of the administration to be put on trial.”
Şahinkaya said in response to the accusation that he and the other generals abolished Parliament and overrode its legislative powers as well as suspended the executive, that “there was no such thing as Parliament at the time. The deputies didn’t even go to the parliamentary sessions. They couldn’t elect a speaker or a president for six months. So there was no agency to use those powers on behalf of the people.”
Prosecutor Seçen also pointed out that acts of terrorism in full swing on Turkey’s streets on Sept. 11, 1980 were cut off instantly on the morning of Sept. 12. 1980, which implied the generals knew the identities and locations of the perpetrators of those acts.
He asked why the military had failed to take other measures rather than stage a coup. “There was great joy among the people after the military intervention, and because of this and the ease that came with it, the terrorist attacks decreased in frequency.
Illegal groups were probably waiting on developments and making an assessment of the situation, because shortly after, about one month later, the incidents started again. We passed new laws giving more powers to the Martial Law Command Center. As these command centers began to exercise their new powers, violence decreased again and ultimately ended.”
Around 650,000 people were detained during the Sept. 12 coup, and files for nearly 1.7 million people were opened at police stations. Over 230,000 people were tried in 210,000 cases, mostly for political reasons.
Capital punishment was handed down to 517 people out of the 7,000 people who faced charges that carried a capital sentence, and 50 of those who received the death penalty were executed.
As a result of unsanitary conditions and torture, 299 people died in prison. Additionally, while in custody, 144 people died in crimes for which the perpetrators could not be found; 14 people died during the course of hunger strikes; 16 were shot to death because they were allegedly trying to escape from prison; and 43 people committed suicide.