Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has launched a blistering attack on academics who criticised his policies in the Kurdish-dominated southeast, warning that they would pay a price after falling into a “pit of treachery”.
Prosecutors have launched a major investigation against more than 1,200 Turkish academics who signed a petition denouncing the military operations against Kurdish rebels in the southeast.
At least 18 were then detained as part of the probe.
The European Union and United States denounced the investigation in unusually strong statements.
Speaking in one of his regular and typically raucous meetings to supportive local Turkish politicians at his presidential palace, Erdogan said that the academics had shown “real and ugly faces” after their “masks fell off”.
“They spit out their hatred of our nation’s values and history on every occasion and the petition has made this clearer,” said Erdogan.
He implied that the academics would face both criminal consequences and the loss of their posts.
“So you think you will try to disrupt the unity of this nation, and continue to have a comfortable life with the help of the salary that you receive from the state and pay no price?” he said. “Those days are over.”
Erdogan said the academics will continue to thrash around “in this pit of treachery they fell in”.
“In a state of law like Turkey, so-called academics who target the unity of our nation have no privilege to commit crimes,” he said. “They don’t have immunity.”
Referring to the secular elite who ruled Turkey for many of the years before his Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, the president said: “Thrash about as long as you want: The old Turkey, where an entire country and nation were being run by a handful of so-called intellectuals ... no longer exists.”
All of those detained last week have now been released but they still face investigation and possible trial.
Yesterday three academics working for Sakarya University east of Istanbul who had signed the petition were arrested on the order of prosecutors, Turkish media reports said.
Two were later released after questioning.
In an unusually tough statement days ahead of a visit to Turkey by US Vice-President Joe Biden, the US embassy warned the investigation risked having a “chilling effect” on political discourse in Turkey.
The Turkish army is pressing on with a relentless crackdown in the southeast which the government says is aimed at flushing out Kurdish militants but activists say has claimed dozens of civilian lives.
Erdogan also escalated a row with the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party Kemal Kilicdaroglu who last week had called the Turkish strongman a “tinpot dictator”.
“I shouldn’t even bother respond to him,” fumed Erdogan, then adding: “No words are enough to describe what kind of a person he is.”
However, Erdogan then went on to vent his opinion of his rival: “He is so shameless: If you spit on his face, he thinks it’s raining ... none of us knows if he is sane.”
Kilicdaroglu on Tuesday had refused to go back on the comments, quipping that what had annoyed Erdogan was the “tinpot” remark rather than the “dictator”.
“My God, give me some patience. He showed his ugly face one more time,” seethed Erdogan.
Prosecutors have now opened an investigation against Kilicdaroglu for insulting the president, while Erdogan is suing him for damages of 100,000 Turkish lira ($33,000) in two separate cases over the original remarks and the new comments on Tuesday.
“The amount of compensation I receive (from him) is exponentially increasing,” said Erdogan.
Teacher to serve almost a year in prison for insulting Turkish president
A Turkish court has sentenced a teacher to almost a year in prison for making a rude gesture at President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a political rally in 2014, local media reports said yesterday.
Insulting public officials is a crime in Turkey, and Erdogan, the country’s most popular but most divisive politician, is seen by his critics as intolerant of dissent and quick to take legal action over perceived slurs.
After a rally in the Aegean city of Izmir in 2014 when he was prime minister, Erdogan lashed out at the female teacher and said she made a gesture at him that typified the rudeness of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
“Today as I was arriving (there was) a woman on a balcony,” he said. “She made such an ugly gesture with her hand. There you go, that is the CHP. I mean the country’s prime minister is passing by and you make that gesture with your hand and arm.”
The teacher, who pleaded not guilty at the hearing, will serve 11 months and 20 days in jail, the Dogan news agency said.
Earlier this week, lawyers for Erdogan filed a lawsuit against the main opposition leader for saying that Erdogan was a dictator, presidential sources and the opposition party said.
Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for more than a decade, first as prime minister and since 2014 as its first popularly elected president, has sued a number of people in the past, including cartoonists, teenagers and a former Miss Turkey winner.
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