NICOSIA, Cyprus — Turkey must adhere to legal and human rights principles in the prosecution of people accused of involvement in a failed coup, if it wants to buttress its reputation as a nation that has reconciled democracy with Islam, the chief of Europe’s top human rights body said Friday.
Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said ensuring that the thousands of people who have been arrested or dismissed from government jobs in Turkey have their day in court would benefit both Europe and the region.
It also would send a strong message to those who commit “terrorism in the name of Islam,” he said.
“We have looked upon Turkey as a kind of evidence that one can reconcile democracy with Islam,” Jagland said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I hope that this can prevail during this purge.”
He said it’s “incredibly important” Turkish authorities make it clear to Turkish citizens they can fight charges against them in the country’s constitutional court, which decides cases based on European legal norms.
“That would help a lot to get the things right,” Jagland, a former prime minister and foreign minister of Norway, said.
Turkey has so far arrested some 32,000 people in connection with the failed July 15 coup while tens of thousands of people have been dismissed or suspended from government jobs including the police, military and judiciary.
Jagland said the core principle of presumption of innocence must be applied unfailingly in each case. Although Turkish citizens may appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, it’s would be better for Turkish courts to handle cases fairly so the human rights court is not flooded with such appeals, he said.
Jagland said Council of Europe officials are in a “close dialogue” with Turkish authorities, but that it’s still too early to determine whether or not the country is sticking to European legal norms.
“This situation appeared all of a sudden in Turkey, so many mistakes may have been done,” he said.
Jagland said despite the danger posed by a coup, Turkish authorities need to be careful they are not persecuting people without hard evidence of their involvement
“We shouldn’t forget that this was a real threat to the Turkish state,” Jagland said. “The only question is how broad it is, and how many you should accuse of being part of it.”