Germany's Roth furious after barred from Turkey prison visit

29th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

The co-chair of Germany's Greens, Claudia Roth, has lashed out at Turkey after she was barred from visiting two journalists in prison, media reports said Friday.

"I cannot accept such treatment," Roth said after she was denied permission Thursday to visit two journalists held in an Istanbul prison for involvement in anti-government plots, according to the Milliyet daily.

Roth said she would write a letter of complaint to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"I want to tell the government and Prime Minister Erdogan that freedom of press and freedom of expression is needed for democracy," she said.

Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener, both prominent investigative journalists, were arrested in March on charges of links to a purported network that allegedly plotted political chaos to pave the way for a military coup to topple Erdogan's Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Their arrests, which followed the incarceration of other journalists as part of the same probe, sparked an outcry over media freedom in Turkey and drew condemnation from the United States and the European Union, which Turkey is seeking to join.

"What are you scared of? Why can't I visit a journalist?" said Roth, a longtime critic of Turkey's human rights record. "As a defender of Turkey's EU membership, my job is really difficult from now on."

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin hit back at Roth Friday.

"One cannot visit (prisons) as they like in any country," he said, adding that his ministry had issued the permission shortly after Roth left the prison complex.

The massive Ergenekon probe, which landed Sik and Sener in jail, was initially hailed as a success in a country where the army has unseated four governments since 1960.

But its credibility waned as police began arresting intellectuals and journalists. Critics say it has degenerated into a campaign to bully AKP opponents.

© 2011 AFP

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