Turkey arresting admirals, students for criticism - analyst

Turkey’s crackdown on retired navy admirals, who issued a declaration criticising the government might seem “banal”, but it shows no critique of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is permitted at all, analyst Seth Frantzman wrote for the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

Turkish police on Monday detained 10 retired navy admirals out of a total of 103 signatories, with four others ordered to turn themselves in within three days, for allegedly preparing Saturday night’s declaration, and facilitating others to sign it.

In the declaration, the admirals voiced strong opposition to an artificial waterway project to bypass Istanbul’s Bosporus, the Kanal Istanbul, championed by Erdoğan himself.

“The actual criticism is quite mild and the actual issue appears banal,” Frantzman said. “The admirals prefer a Turkey that is part of international agreements and follows them.”

But, he added, “People are arrested in Turkey even for tweets that are many years old.”

Frantzman cited a New York Times article that was published on Saturday, just before the admirals’ declaration came out, detailing the plight of Turkish trainee pilots who are facing as harsh punishments as generals who allegedly organised the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016.

“The poor young men,” Frantzman said, “happened to be at a military base that was used by coup plotters, but did not take part and were merely trainees. For being in the same area as the plotters the young men are now all in prison for the rest of their lives.”

The analyst also mentioned Cihan Erdal, a Turkish academic who had been living and working in Canada before his arrest in October. Erdal was a member of Turkey’s Green Party and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). The HDP currently has thousands of members in pre-trial detention over trumped up charges, including its co-chairs, several former deputies, and several dozen former mayors.

Erdal, still in pre-trial detention for a tweet he posted seven years ago, receives little support from his adopted country of Canada, as “most Western democracies are afraid to critique Ankara’s crackdowns and do not stand by Turkish students who attend Western universities,” Frantzman said.

“People are imprisoned in Turkey for minor criticism that might not land them in prison in China, Russia, or Iran,” the analyst concluded. “Turkey is now one of the most authoritarian regimes in the world.”