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TURKEY

French student: I’m not an extremist

A French-Turkish student detained in Turkey for nearly three months on suspicion of links to an outlawed far-left extremist group said Tuesday the case against her is "rubbish".

Sevil Sevimli, who was arrested on May 10 and imprisoned until being released on Monday, said in a phone interview with AFP that she has been ordered to stay in Turkey pending her September 26 trial, confirming an earlier statement from the French foreign ministry.

Speaking by cell phone from the city of Eskisehir in north-east Turkey, where she had been in jail, the 20-year-old condemned the case against her.

"It's as if everything were planned from the start, as if it were a film," she said.

Arrested with five others, she is accused of colluding with a terrorist group, a crime that can carry a penalty of up to 12 years in prison.

Her lawyer said in June she was accused of attending a May Day parade and a concert by Yorum, a band known to have a socialist ideology.

He said police suspect her of having links with the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), which the United States and the European Union have listed as a terrorist group.

Since 1976, the DHKP-C has been behind numerous attacks against the Turkish state that have left dozens dead, including two retired generals and a former justice minister.

"The questions they ask me are always the same, like 'Did you go to that concert on May 1,'" Sevimli said.

"The things they are accusing us of are completely legal and democratic, we have nothing to be afraid of. We're just waiting."

She called the case "rubbish" and said students are often arrested in Turkey over their political beliefs.

A committee formed to support Sevimli had on Monday announced her release.

France's foreign ministry clarified Tuesday that she was "freed on conditional release and banned from leaving Turkey".

The case has created diplomatic tensions between Paris and Ankara.

"France continues to follow attentively Sevimli's situation and remains fully mobilised to offer her the support she might need," foreign ministry deputy spokesman Vincent Floreani told journalists.

The announcement comes after Sevimli's supporters voiced concern over her health on Saturday and said they had sent a petition with more than 13,000 signatures to French officials calling for her release.

Born in France to Turkish Kurd parents, Sevimli was arrested in Turkey while she was in the country completing a final year of studies using Erasmus, the inter-European university exchange scheme.

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ISLAM

Erdogan calls French separatism bill ‘guillotine’ of democracy

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday denounced a planned French law designed to counter "Islamist separatism" as a "guillotine" of democracy.

Erdogan calls French separatism bill 'guillotine' of democracy
Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as "anti-Muslim". Photo: Adem ALTAN/AFP

The draft legislation has been criticised both inside France and abroad for stigmatising Muslims and giving the state new powers to limit speech and religious groups.

“The adoption of this law, which is openly in contradiction of human rights, freedom of religion and European values, will be a guillotine blow inflicted on French democracy,” said Erdogan in a speech in Ankara.

The current version of the planned law would only serve the cause of extremism, putting NGOs under pressure and “forcing young people to choose between their beliefs and their education”, he added.

READ ALSO: What’s in France’s new law to crack down on Islamist extremism?

“We call on the French authorities, and first of all President (Emmanuel) Macron, to act sensibly,” he continued. “We expect a rapid withdrawal of this bill.”

Erdogan also said he was ready to work with France on security issues and integration, but relations between the two leaders have been strained for some time.

France’s government is in the process of passing new legislation to crack down on what it has termed “Islamist separatism”, which would give the state more power to vet and disband religious groups judged to be threats to the nation.

Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as “anti-Muslim”.

READ ALSO: Has Macron succeeded in creating an ‘Islam for France’?

Last October, Erdogan questioned Macron’s “mental health”, accusing him of waging a “campaign of hatred” against Islam, after the French president defended the right of cartoonists to caricature the prophet Mohammed.

The two countries are also at odds on a number of other issues, including Libya, Syria and the eastern Mediterranean.

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