ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey said on Thursday it would cut back its funding to the Council of Europe human rights body, in protest at an award given to a Turkish judge held in detention for alleged links to last year’s coup attempt.
The council last month awarded Murat Arslan with the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize. Ankara says Arslan, who is awaiting trial, has links to the network of the U.S.-based cleric accused of orchestrating the abortive 2016 putsch.
The award was “the last straw” for the Turkish government, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said during ministerial budget discussions in Ankara.
“I cannot give my people’s money to an institution who awards a ByLock user. This is the government’s decision, if there is a price to pay we will do so,” he said.
ByLock is the encrypted messaging app which the government says was used by the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. Authorities regularly jail those in possession of the app on suspicion of links to Gulen’s network.
Cavusoglu said that Turkey would no longer be a major contributor to the council, although it would still pay the minimum required to retain membership in the body, without specifying figures.
It was not immediately clear how much funding Ankara provided this year. In 2015 it gave 13 million euros (£11.60 million) and had plans to more than double the sum, according to state-owned media.
Ties with Europe, particularly Germany, have been badly strained by the vast crackdown launched after the coup.
In a message from jail read at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg last month, Arslan said human rights were being systematically violated in Turkey.
“I am addressing you from a prison in a country where the law is put in brackets, where the values of democracy are gradually moving away, where dissident voices are silenced, where the defenders of law, journalists, (and) those who wish for peace are declared terrorists,” his statement said.
Some 50,000 people have been jailed pending trial over alleged links to the coup, while nearly 150,000 people have been sacked or suspended from their jobs in the military, private and public sector.
Turkey says the measures are necessary given the severity of security threats it faces.
Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz, Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by David Dolan