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Mike Hancock (UK)

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Mike Hancock

"Why are we here today discussing this report? Because there is an unclear view of what a "political prisoner" is.

"And what does the report say to us? It asks us to reaffirm support for the criteria that we have been working to up till now.

"How does reaffirming the thing that has led to so much confusion help the situation in the Parliamentary Assembly?

"Why has this debate been obsessed with political prisoners who may or not be in prison in Azerbaijan, when this Assembly knows that so many countries have alleged political prisoners?

"The rapporteur shakes his head, but in his opening remarks he mentioned the country of Azerbaijan by name four times. He mentioned that there were other countries but he did not name them. Why this obsession with political prisoners in Azerbaijan?

"I think it is because he was, wrongly, refused a visa there.

"The instruction from the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights was quite clear: to come up with a unified, recognisable and simple definition of "political prisoner".

"We in the United Kingdom have had many terrorists over the years; 13 of them starved themselves to death to prove that they were not terrorists, but political prisoners. That was not 100 years ago but 20 years ago, and the British Government stood by and allowed these men to commit suicide by starving themselves to death because we did not recognise any international definition of what a political prisoner was.

"You say in your report, "Oh, it's not a problem for Spain, because ETA can be dealt with"; "Oh, it's not a problem for Turkey, because the PKK can be dealt with". How? Your report is very thin, Mr Strässer – it does not go into any detail.

"To say today that, after three years of debate and dialogue, the best we can do as an Assembly of parliamentarians is simply to redefine something that is already internationally recognised as a failure cannot be good enough.

"We could and should have done better, and those political prisoners who are being held in many of the countries of this Assembly will not benefit from the reaffirming of what we cannot deliver on now.

"They were expecting a more precise definition that no one could fail to understand. That is the failure of your report, Mr Strässer."

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