Erdoğan slams Nobel Committee for awarding ‘terrorist’ from Turkey

(Updates with statements from Erdoğan's communications director, changes to paragraphs 2-4)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has condemned the Nobel Committee for awarding a prize to a Turkish person he described as a terrorist, BirGün reported.

Erdoğan did not name the so-called terrorist, leading many to infer that he was referring to Orhan Pamuk, the novelist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006 and who is known as a critic of the Turkish state and Erdoğan’s governments.

However, Erdoğan's Communications Director Fahrettin Altun was quick to release a statement on Twitter saying that Turkey's strongman was not referring to the novelist.

“Our respected president was referring to people who, despite being known for anti-Turkey ideologies and terrorist activities, have been nominated for Nobel prizes or awarded by different international organisations,''Altun wrote.

“And they’ve gone and awarded the prize to a terrorist from Turkey,” Erdoğan had said during a speech at a university earlier on Tuesday.

The only other Turkish Nobel laureate, biochemist Aziz Sancar, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2015 for his studies in DNA repair, and is not known as an outspoken critic of the Turkish government.

But those who do speak out against Erdoğan’s government are often branded terrorists. Charges related to terrorism have been levelled against civil society figures, academics, journalists, politicians, activists and others critics.

Erdoğan has been scathing about the committee’s decision to award the Nobel Prize for Literature to Peter Handke, an Austrian writer who has faced widespread criticism and accusations of genocide denial for his support of Serbia’s position in the 1990s conflict in the former Yugoslavia.

“If they awarded me the Nobel Prize, I wouldn’t accept it,” the Turkish president said on Tuesday, a day after announcing that Turkey would boycott the prize ceremony.