Sunday, March 1, 2015

Who speaks for whom or for what: As the U.S. expresses concern over ‘deteriorating rights’ in Turkey, Turkish President Erdoğan slams Austria's controversial Islam law

    Sunday, March 01, 2015   No comments

 U.S. concerned over ‘deteriorating rights’ in Turkey

People in a democratic country should be able to express criticism of their leaders, a senior U.S. official has said, voicing Washington’s concern over Turkey’s human rights situation, amid a series of recent cases in which senior elected officials have opened cases against citizens upon alleged “insults.”

“We are very concerned about this. People have been prosecuted for speaking their mind. In a democratic country that respects freedom of expression, people should not be prosecuted for expressing their views on the government of the day or public officials,” said Thomas O. Melia, the deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL).

Melia’s comments came upon a question about people facing criminal charges due to their criticism against Turkish leaders posted on social media.

“People in a free society are allowed to complain about their leaders and their performance,” he told reporters on Feb. 27 after holding meeting with ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) officials and local civil society representatives, ahead of the release of the State Department’s annual report on human rights around the world.

It is problematic if anyone - whether they are an editor-of-chief a newspaper, a 16-year-old student, or a taxi driver - fears prosecution or imprisonment for expressing criticism in a public meeting or on social media, Melia added. “That’s one of the things that we are concerned in Turkey’s human rights environment today,” he said.

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Turkish President Erdoğan slams Austria's controversial Islam law

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan strongly criticized Austria on Feb. 28 for approving a controversial bill that revises the status of Muslims in the European country.

"On the one hand you tell about the EU acquis, but on the other hand you take steps which totally oppose the EU acquis," Erdoğan said at a meeting in Istanbul before his departure to Saudi Arabia for an official visit. 
  
According to the Europa portal, the community acquis or acquis is "the body of common rights and obligations which bind all the member states together within the European Union… Applicant countries have to accept the Community acquis before they can join the Union."

The Austrian Parliament passed a law on Feb. 25, stirring a debate.

The updated “Law on Islam,” which was prepared by the coalition of the Social Democratic Party and the People’s Party, aims to regulate how Islam is managed inside the country, and includes provisions requiring imams to be able to speak German, standardizing the Quran in the German language, and banning Islamic organizations from receiving foreign funding.

Turkey will make every effort to protect Muslims in Austria, especially those of Turkish descent, from being harmed due to a controversial recently approved bill regulating Islam in the country, Turkey’s EU minister said on Feb. 26.

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Ed Isr

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