Turkey’s Albayrak denies calling economists terrorists, threatens legal action

Turkish Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak did not label economists as terrorists, his ministry said, threatening legal action against those who spread such lies.

Albayrak, speaking at a business meeting in the northern province of Ordu last week, did not use the word “terrorist” when describing certain persons, the ministry said in a statement, according to the Diken news website.

Instead, Albayrak said there was no difference between economists, professors and writers who start perception operations against Turkey and teams that are spotted at scenes of terrorism, the ministry said.

“All legal processes have been started against people who write such news targeting our minister and those who attempt to keep such lies and defamation on the agenda,” the ministry said.

Turkey has slammed some financial commentators, bankers, ratings agencies and foreign financial institutions for spreading negative propaganda about the economy. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Albayrak, his son-in-law, have sought to depict last year’s currency crisis, which sent the lira to a record low, as a pre-meditated attack by foreign powers.

Turkish courts may soon be able to jail economists and other persons who warn of economic disaster, a leading local columnist said last week. The government is planning legislation that would allow judges and prosecutors to criminalise such public predictions, Dilek Güngör wrote in Sabah newspaper.

Many economists covering Turkey, particularly those based inside the country, have become reluctant to publish their true views due to criticism, or worse, by the government. Critical commentary on the economy in leading Turkish newspapers is now thread-bare after leading columnists stepped down or were forced out.

In April, a Turkish court acquitted HSBC Turkey chief executive Selim Kervancı of charges that he insulted Erdoğan by retweeting a video depicting him as Adolf Hitler. The investigation of Kervancı began at the height of the currency crisis.