Jun 26 2019

Will Turkey’s Erdoğan ease up on prosecutions after stinging defeat? - NY Times

Observers are looking for signs that, following Sunday’s humbling electoral defeat, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will soften his aggressive prosecution of critics, including many seen as minor political players, the New York Times reported

Three key trials happening this week are expected to be closely watched by foreign governments, which have been troubled by Erdoğan’s crackdown on huge swathes of the opposition in the wake of the July 2016 failed coup, according to the Times. 

This week’s Istanbul election result, the country’s troubled economy, and the possibility of sanctions from both the United States and the European Union, are reshaping Erdoğan’s political landscape. 

Turkey’s judiciary is still considered independent, but thousands of judges were purged in the aftermath of the failed coup and many were hurriedly replaced and now work in a climate of fear, experts told the Times.

On Monday, 16 activists went on trial for their involvement in the 2013 Gezi protests, charged with trying to overthrow the government. The next day, the court ruled to continue the detention of one of the accused, prominent businessman-philanthropist Osman Kavala. 

In addition, two Turkish employees of the U.S. consulate in Istanbul are set to appear in court this week, charged with links to terrorist groups. When his trial began on Tuesday, the judge lifted the house arrest of one of the consular employees, Nazmi Mete Cantürk. His wife and adult daughter are also on trial, all accused of membership in a terrorist organisation, which U.S. officials deny. 

“The cases have been described by diplomats and human rights organisations as a strategy of hostage diplomacy on the part of Mr. Erdoğan as he negotiates his various disputes with foreign governments,” said the Times. 

The trials come days after the opposition candidate decisively beat the candidate for Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party in a rerun vote for Istanbul mayor, six weeks after the initial vote, which the AKP narrowly lost, had been annulled. 

“That result has raised the question of whether Mr. Erdoğan, who has been in charge for 16 years and has taken measures to increase his grip on power, is now politically vulnerable,” said the Times. 

On Tuesday, Erdoğan said he had accepted the result and that his party would evaluate its failures and move forward.  

“We will take the necessary steps,” he said to the AKP’s parliamentary group. “But it is us who will decide these definitions. We will not depend on the definitions of others.”