EU aide takes up German minor's case with Turkey

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HELSINKI, Nov 24 (Reuters) The European Union's enlargement chief has taken up with the Turkish authorities the case of a German minor held for seven months without trial in Turkey on a rape charge, a Finnish newspaper reported today.

The case has caused a political storm in Germany, with the Berlin government pledging to support the 17-year-old schoolboy if he appeals to the European Court of Human Rights about his treatment by the EU candidate country.

Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn told the daily Helsingin Sanomat he had raised the case of Marko W with Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan on human rights grounds, and met the German EU ambassador to discuss the issue.

''The European Commission is closely following the case of Marko W I discussed the matter with Foreign Minister Babacan on Thursday and the Turkish government is fully aware this is being watched from the dimension of human rights and the rule of law,'' Rehn was quoted as saying.

The schoolboy is accused of sexually abusing a 13-year-old British girl during a holiday in Turkey and has been detained since April, despite appeals for his provisional release on bail. He is next due to appear in court in Antalya on December 14.

Rehn said the Turkish government was working to speed up the trial and conclude the case but political pressure could be counter-productive.

''I understand the human rights concern but we will get better results for Marko W through silent diplomacy and relying on the Turkish judiciary than through a high political profile,'' he was quoted as saying.

Brussels criticised the slow pace of progress in human rights and the rule of law in Turkey, including the treatment of women and minors, in its annual progress report on the country's candidacy earlier this month.

Some German opponents of Ankara's bid for membership of the 27-nation EU have seized on the case to argue Turkey is not fit to join.

REUTERS RJ RAI1910

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