Statement to the press on the visit of a Congress delegation to Mrs Leyla Güven

Diyarbakir Turkey,  6 October 2011

Following discussions in the Congress Sessions and Bureau a delegation from the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe visited Mrs Leyla Güven in Diyarbakir E-Type prison on 6 October 2011. Mrs Güven is a member of the Turkish delegation to the Congress.

The delegation lead by Anders Knape, Vice-President of the Congress and President of the Swedish Association of Local and Regional Authorities (SALAR) comprised Mr Leen Verbeek, the Vice-President of the Dutch delegation to the Congress and Governor of the Province of Flevoland, and Mr Andreas Kiefer, Secretary General of the Congress. They were accompanied by Ms. Gaye Doganoglu, the Chairwoman of the Turkish delegation to the Congress.

The delegation was able to speak with Mrs Güven at length and to learn about the conditions of her imprisonment. Leyla Güven appears to be representative for a large number of local politicians, elected by a large majority, who are detained.

The delegation also met with the governor of Diyarbakir, Mustafa Toprak and a group of mayors of the region.

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe is very concerned about the large number of around 1.800 elected local politicians  who are in detention in Turkey, many of them since 2009, like Leyla Güven . This is not a satisfactory situation and for this reason the Congress will continue to follow this matter closely and keep it on its agenda.

The Congress is naturally concerned for the welfare of its members, especially when they are no longer able to carry out the mandate for which they were elected.

While the delegation does not comment on the accusations against Mrs Güven, its members firmly believe in the principle that one is innocent until proven guilty. The delegation insists on a trial that is fair and that will not drag on for too long, since it is now almost a year since it began and almost two years since Ms. Güven and other local politicians have been in detention.

Mr. Knape and Mr. Verbeek will be reporting to the Congress Bureau, which next meets in Strasbourg on 17 October. The Congress Bureau will decide what follow-up to give to this mission, for example whether to inform the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

The issue will also be brought to the attention of the Congress members who will meet in Session on 18-20 October 2011.

Andreas Kiefer, the Secretary General of the Congress, will report to the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg.

The Congress asked the Turkish authorities over a year ago for permission to visit Mrs Güven to mark solidarity with their member and the delegation was pleased that finally the opportunity was given to see her. Anders Knape, expressed his thanks to the Turkish Minister of Justice, Mr Sadullah Ergin, for having authorised this visit.

The Congress of the Council of Europe is a political assembly of 636 mayors, presidents of regions, local and regional councillors from the 47 member states of the Council of Europe.