U.S. must protest as Erdoğan makes Turkey 'a prison' - WP

The United States and other governments must protest loudly as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan turns Turkey into a totalitarian prison, the Washington Post’s Editorial Board said on Sunday.

Citing the conviction of 23 journalists on Friday for “patently ridiculous charges that they were members of a terrorist organization and tweeted about it”, the Washington Post said a nation that once “aspired to be an exemplar of enlightened moderation” is being transformed into a jail.

“Mr. Erdoğan is happily marching alongside Russia, China, Egypt, Cuba and others where legitimacy to rule rests on coercion and thought control,” the Washington Post said. “Mr. Erdoğan’s dictatorship must be called out for what it is.”

The 23 journalists are accused of being members of the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organisation (FETO). Erdoğan blames the Fethullah Gulen movement, labelled as FETO by Turkey and led by Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen from his mansion in Pennsylvania, for masterminding a coup attempt in July 2016, charges it denies.

A lawyer representing two journalists, Barış Topuk, said at an earlier hearing: “In our opinion, the name of the organization in which the defendants are accused of being members should be TTO: Tweetist Terrorist Organization. There are no weapons or bombs in the case, only news articles and tweets”, the Washington Post said.

Ali Akkuş, who was news editor of the shuttered Zaman newspaper received a sentence of seven years and six months after a prosecutor singled him out for saying on Twitter: “No dictator can silence the press”.

Since the coup, Erdoğan has cracked down on the media, locking up more than 200 Gulenist, leftist and Kurdish journalists on terrorism charges as part of a wider purge of his opponents that began more than five years ago.

“The show trials underscore how far Turkey has fallen from Western norms of democracy, human rights and rule of law” the Washington Post said. “Even if he (Erdoğan) covers his ears, the United States and other nations must protest, and loudly.”