Erdoğan accused of ‘threatening Turkey with autocracy’

KT Report:

Turkish PM Erdoğan

Turkish PM Erdoğan

The Turkish government faced new international criticism this week over claims that it is becoming increasingly undemocratic. A bipartisan group of 84 former US law makers, officials and policy experts has written to President Obama, urging him “to make it clear, privately and publicly, that Prime Minister Erdoğan’s autocratic actions and demagoguery are subverting Turkey’s political institutions and values and endangering the U.S.-Turkey relationship.” Human Rights Watch (HRW) also spoke out against Turkey’s new judiciary law, which it says it will give the government greater control over the judiciary.

The open letter, signed by prominent Democrats and Republicans including former ambassadors and former members of the Obama administration, says that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s responses to the 2013 ‘Gezi protests’ and to recent corruption allegations (which have surfaced through the conflict between former allies Erdoğan and Fethullah Gülen), “threaten to take Turkey from an imperfect democracy to an autocracy”.

“He (Erdoğan) and many in his party have abused their positions and compromised the rule of law by shutting down the investigations, dismissing or reassigning hundreds of prosecutors and thousands of police officers, muzzling the media, demonizing critics, and incriminating imagined foreign conspirators, including the U.S. ambassador. Worse, the ruling AKP has pushed through institutional changes—such as bringing the judiciary under executive control and expanding state authority to censor the internet—that would eliminate the hallmarks of democracy: separation of powers, checks and balances, and civil liberties”.

The letter does not mention the prospects for a democratic and peaceful solution to Turkey’s critical Kurdish question.

A HRW spokesperson also condemned Turkey’s new judiciary law, saying it “means just one thing and that is greater government control over the judiciary.”

“For the sake of the rule of law in Turkey, President Gül should veto the new law,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, HRW’s senior Turkey researcher.

“On February 15, 2014, Turkey’s parliament passed comprehensive amendments to the existing law on the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (Hakimler ve Savcılar Yüksek Kurulu, HSYK). The new law gives the justice minister, who already heads the council, more direct control over the body and a stronger role in its decision making. The changes will increase the likelihood of judges and prosecutors being disciplined or reassigned at the behest of the government”, says HRW.

These legal changes followed the revelation in December of serious bribery and corruption allegations involving government ministers’ sons and the head of a bank. Four ministers resigned, and prosecutors opened a new investigation that included Prime Minister Erdoğan’s son. The government responded by removing the prosecutors leading both investigations and by demoting or redeploying police officers and prosecutors. It says the allegations are part of an international conspiracy against it, involving the US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen and his followers within the judiciary and police. Erdoğan’s administration faces a significant test of its domestic support in the local elections on 30th March.

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