Erdogan slams envoy selfie
Istanbul is attracting a string of negative headlines. Source: Wikimedia
Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan has warned a British diplomat over a “selfie” taken at the espionage trial of two journalists, after the consul-general tweeted a photo of himself with one of the reporters, as Israel told its citizens to leave the country.
Erdogan has condemned western diplomats after several attended the hearing of Can Dundar, editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaper, and his colleague Erdem Gul on the first day of their trial in Istanbul. The pair are accused of attempting to topple Erdogan with the publication of a video supposedly showing Turkish intelligence agents transporting weapons into Syria by truck in 2014. They face life sentences with the case bringing international condemnation and further highlighting media freedom concerns in Turkey.
“The consul general … went to the trial of a journalist charged with espionage, to support him. Moreover he gets a picture taken cheek to cheek and had it published,” the state-run Anadolu agency quoted Erdogan saying. “And he does not stop at that, on social media he says things like ‘Turkey needs to decide what kind of country it will be’, words that exceed their intended meaning.”
Consul General Leigh Turner on Friday posted a picture with Dundar on Twitter. He tweeted: “Key point not comparisons or history but Turkey deciding for itself what kind of country it wants to be.”
London said its diplomats regularly observed trials around the world in compliance with international conventions. “This is an important case for freedom of expression in Turkey and we, along with our EU partners, will continue to monitor its progress,” a Foreign Office spokesman said. Anadolu reported that the president made a speech saying: “If this person could still go on working here that’s because of our generosity and hospitality. If it were another country they wouldn’t let a diplomat who exhibits this kind of behaviour to stay there a day more.”
Erdogan has vowed that Dundar will “pay a heavy price” for his coverage. Erdogan will be one of the complainants after the judge ruled that the trial should be heard behind closed doors, angering supporters of media freedom. The European Union and human rights groups have accused Turkey of muzzling a once-vibrant press.
Dundar and Gul have spent 92 days in detention, nearly half of it in solitary confinement, before the constitutional court ruled last month that their pre-trial incarceration was unfounded since their charges stemmed from their media work.
Meanwhile, Israel is asking citizens to leave Turkey “as soon as possible” in an upgraded travel directive in preparation for follow-up attacks to the March 19 Istanbul suicide bombing.
Three Israelis and an Iranian died in the Istanbul attack, which resulted in the counter-terrorism bureau in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office issuing a “level 3” warning against travelling to Turkey. This has been raised to “level 2” based on a “high, concrete threat” that Islamic State or other extremist groups were planning to attack Turkish tourist attractions.
Erdogan’s spokesman said the move had followed Ankara’s warning to its citizens. “One should refrain from moves that lead to the suspension of daily lives, in a way which would be welcomed by the terrorists,” his spokesman Ibrahim Kalin added.