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Last Updated: Friday, 22 September 2006, 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK
Turkey abuse claims 'on the rise'
EU and Turkish flags
Human rights are key issue in Turkey's EU bid
An EU delegation on a fact-finding mission to Turkey has reported a "worrying" increase in allegations of torture and abuse in the country.

The European Parliament's human rights committee members focused mainly on the Kurdish south-east of the country.

They said they had heard reports of a resurgence of torture, abductions and beatings by security forces.

Turkey has faced a barrage of criticism from Europe recently, with human rights a key issue in its bid to join the EU.

'Going backwards'

The delegation of six MEPs met officials and human rights groups in the capital and in Istanbul.

They also travelled to the south-east, which has seen a serious recent upsurge in violence between the Turkish military and Kurdish separatists.

These are very, very worrying times in Turkey
Richard Howitt
Delegation member

The group expressed concern about the discrepancies between cases of human rights abuses recorded by the authorities and those reported to local human rights groups.

Committee vice-chairman Richard Howitt highlighted the resurgence of political violence and the "very sad pieces of evidence of increased torture", after years when the use of torture had been declining.

"These are very, very worrying times in Turkey indeed," he said.

Another member of the delegation, Italian lawmaker Vittorio Agnoletto, said: "The impression is that the situation is going backwards." A full report on the delegation's findings is due to be presented to European Parliament in a month, although they will be discussed in a debate within the next two weeks.

A recent report on Turkey's EU accession bid was highly critical of the pace of human rights reforms.

British artist Michael Dickenson
Mr Dickenson was arrested 10 days ago

The committee's comments came as British officials in Turkey said they were seeking urgent clarification from the authorities about the continuing detention of a British artist.

Michael Dickenson was arrested in Istanbul 10 days ago, accused of insulting the dignity of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mr Dickenson had displayed a poster in which he had superimposed Mr Erdogan's head onto the body of a dog held on a leash representing the US flag.

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