Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan tightened his grip Wednesday on the judiciary and the Internet in an effort to tamp down a corruption scandal that’s rattled his government and now appears to implicate his immediate family and him. Evidence mounted that a series of audio recordings in which Erdogan can be heard instructing his son, Bilal, to get rid of enormous sums of money are authentic, with the government firing two senior officials at the state scientific agency responsible for the security of encrypted telephones and a U.S.-based expert on encrypted communications, after examining the recordings, telling McClatchy that the recordings appear to be genuine.
Erdogan on Tuesday called the five purported conversations an “immoral montage” that had been “dubbed.” But he acknowledged that even his secure telephone had been tapped. The only apparent “montage” was combining the five different conversations into one audio file, said Joshua Marpet, a U.S.-based cyber analyst who has testified in court on the validity of computer evidence in other Turkish criminal cases. He said there was no sign that the individual conversations had been edited. “If it’s fake, it’s of a sophistication that I haven’t seen,” he said. The purported telephone conversations took place over a 26-hour period, beginning on the morning of Dec. 17, when Turkish police launched raids on the houses and offices of members of the Erdogan government, businessmen and their families.
- Erdogan dares U.S.-based cleric: ‘Do your politics in Turkey’
- Erdoğan Accuses Police Of Attempting To Bring Down His Government (Video)
- Turkish president signs off new controls over judiciary
- Turkish Leader Disowns Trials That Helped Him Tame Military
- Turkey’s embattled Erdogan seeks wider powers for spy agency
- Turkish PM granted greater role over military (Video)
- Turkish editor hits out at media coercion under Erdogan
- Erdogan, Turkey and the future (Video)
- Mohammed Ayoob: The Warring States of Turkey
- Dr. Can Erimtan: Will Turkey become the new Pakistan?
- Obama to Erdogan: Resolve crisis with Israel
- Turkish MPs throw punches during heated debate
Turkey‘s parliament has approved internet controls enabling web pages to be blocked within hours in what the opposition decried as part of a government bid to stifle a corruption scandal with methods more suited to “times of coups”. Social media and video sharing sites have been awash with alleged recordings of ministers including Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and business allies presented as proof of wrongdoing. Reuters has been unable to verify their authenticity.
Under a bill passed late on Wednesday, telecommunications authorities can block access to material within four hours without a prior court order, tightening restrictions imposed in a widely criticised law adopted by the EU candidate in 2007. ”This is against the constitution. Bans like this exist in times of coups and have not been able to conceal any corruption,” Umut Oran, a deputy from the main opposition CHP, told the general assembly.
Erdogan’s critics say his response to the corruption scandal is further evidence of the authoritarian tendencies of a man long held up by the West as a potential model of democratic leadership in the Muslim world. It has raised concerns about stability in the run-up to local and presidential elections this year, helping drive the already fragile lira to record lows.
- Turkish police use tear gas to disperse protest against new internet controls
- Ninth MP quits over Turkish graft scandal
- Turkey kicks out critical foreign journalist
- Turkish Internet restrictions raise more concerns
- Turkish government fights graft scandal with probe of ‘parallel state’
- Turkish ruling party MP slams government in resignation, police purged
- Minister: Over 40 Turkish Air Force pilots resign
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan couldn’t attend a political party meeting in the city of Izmir on Sunday, so he decided to send the next best thing:a giant hologram of himself.
In a scene straight out of Star Wars, Erdogan’s shimmering avatar, whose real-life counterpart is under siege amid an ever-expanding corruption scandal and the resignations of multiple high-level officials, spoke to an astonished crowd of Justice and Development Party supporters on the need for resilience before municipal elections on March 30.
Turkey’s Family and Social Policy Ministry submitted a bill to parliament this week that would allow authorities to block specific websites and keep a record of users’ Internet activities for up to two years. This represents the latest attempt of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to curb web freedoms.
“Previously, there were a limited number of types of alleged illegal content that could be blocked in Turkey,” said Yaman Akdeniz, a professor of law at Istanbul’s Bilgi University. “For example, child pornography, obscene materials, gambling-related content, encouragement of suicide or encouragement of prostitution and escort websites,” Akdeniz told DW.
Akdeniz explained that now, the government is trying to extend this block to include violations of personal rights and also privacy. “That could include defamation, for example,” he said.
The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, appears to be losing friends rapidly following a corruption inquiry that has ensnared government ministers and members of his family.
Launched by opponents in the judiciary and police force, the investigation has implicated Mr Erdogan’s allies, including a Saudi investor and alleged financier of Al Qaeda with ties to Mr Erdogan and his son, Bilal.
But the investigation is widely seen as politically motivated and comes at a time when Turkey appears increasingly vulnerable with a war raging in Syria and the government facing fierce challenges from within.
With the stakes so high, many in Turkey believe the country cannot afford to erode the strong leadership, which Mr Erdogan has demonstrated during his decade in power.
When U.S. leaders and pundits talk about NATO, they describe it as the linchpin of world security and the manifestation of Western liberal values. In other formulations, the U.S. is graciously bestowing a kind of welfare program to its allies in the form of security and protection throughout the European continent because, well, that’s just how much we care about our fellow man.
In reality, NATO is about U.S. control and domination, and a recent report at Foreign Policy demonstrates this fact quite well. Apparently Turkey, a NATO member, has been trying to finalize a deal with a Chinese company to build its first long-range air and missile defense system. This infuriated officials in Washington to the point that they drew up legislation that would ban Chinese-built missile defense systems within NATO.
European Union Neighborhood Policy Commissioner Stefan Fule said Friday a $317 million aid package to Turkey would help it with key reform efforts.
“These past weeks have seen positive developments in EU-Turkey relations, and I hope this renewed support will help foster further reforms that will contribute to the progress in the accession process,” he said in a statement.
The European Commission said Friday the funding would help Turkey build an “independent, impartial and efficient” judicial system and strengthen the efficiency of law enforcement institutions.
Turkey aspires to a closer relationship with the EU. The latest phase of accession talks — Chapter 22, dealing with regional policy — began Nov 5.
- EU official slams Erdogan for his “authoritarian leadership” over Turkey
- Turkish PM: EU’s double standards towards Turkey reduce faith in membership
- German parties say EU may not be able to let Turkey join
- Luxembourg backs Turkey’s EU bid
- President Gül: EU must credit Turkey’s energy role
- Minister: Turkey ’will probably never be EU member’
A new regulation will allow Turkish police to detain those who possess the “risk of conducting a protest” from 12 to 24 hours without the demand of a prosecutor or a judge, prompting acute worries from opposition deputies.
The new regulations that will be conducted jointly by the justice and interior ministries will allow the police to detain a suspect who “may hold a protest” for up to 24 hours without any court decision while also increasing the penalties for resistance to police and damaging public property.
The move to strengthen police powers was precipitated by the countrywide Gezi Park protests, which began at the end of May.
Organizations which “tend to hold protests” will be monitored and their members could be detained by police if intelligence reports suggest they are planning to conduct a demonstration or action.
- EU report accuses Turkish police of using excessive force to quell protests (Independent)
- Turkish police break up student demo with tear gas (AFP)
- Fears over self-censorship as pressure mounts on Turkish media (Daily Times)
- Turkey Court Upholds Convictions for Top Officers Over Coup (AFP)
- Turkey Cracks Down on Cleavage (Bloomberg)
- Turkey to lift headscarf ban, boost Kurdish rights (AFP)
- Turkey Bans Studio Apartments (Newser)
A former Israeli official demanded that Turkey be expelled from NATO following media reports which accused the Turkish intelligence service of leaking the names of 10 Iranian agents who worked for Israel’s intelligence (Mossad) to the Iranian authorities.
Israel’s former deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, in remarks to Yisrael Hayoum newspaper, called for a formal request to be submitted before NATO to cancel Ankara’s membership of the Alliance. Ayalon who caused the “low chair” crisis between Ankara and Tel Aviv three years ago demanded that Israel and the United States re-evaluate their relations with Turkey.
The United States is “seriously concerned” about Turkey’s decision to counter possible missile threats from Syria and elsewhere with the help of a Chinese defence system.
The declaration by Francis Ricciardone, the US ambassador in Ankara, is the latest sign of tensions between Turkey and its Nato allies and shows concern in western capitals about a growing distance from its traditional partners in Europe and the US.
Ankara said last month it would enter into talks with a Chinese corporation about co-production of a long-range air and missile defence system.
In doing so, Turkey turned down bids by companies from the US, Europe and Russia for the deal, valued at US$4 billion (Dh14.7bn) according to reports. The reports said the Chinese company won because it offered a competitive price and the possibility of a technology transfer during the joint production of the missile defence system known as FD-2000.
But Turkey’s preference to deal with the China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corporation (CPMIEC) is threatening to create problems with the West.
The European Union says it has agreed to resume membership talks with Turkey.
The EU’s European affairs ministers, meeting in Luxembourg, said the talks would restart on 5 November, after being stalled for three years.
The EU had first agreed to relaunch negotiations in June, but postponed the talks after members criticised Turkey’s crackdown on anti-government protests.
Turkey first applied for full membership of what was then the European Economic Community in 1987.
The ministers of the 28 EU members based their latest decision on a recommendation by the European Commission.
In its 2013 progress report on Turkey published last week, the Commission had criticised as excessive the use of force by Turkish police in dealing with widespread demonstrations.
But it recognised that Turkey had introduced judicial reforms. It also praised the announcement last month by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of a series of political reforms, including increased rights for Kurds.
To other, earlier refugees. The Turks are preparing to smother the 100th anniversary of their Holocaust against the Christian Armenians of the Ottoman Empire in 1915 with commemorations of their victory over the Allies at Canakkale (Gallipoli) the same year. But each month brings yet further proof – in the testimony of Westerners – of what Turkey still officially denies: that the genocide of the Armenians was a fact of history.
Now come the memoirs of Alec Glen, a British army doctor of the 1914-18 war – written privately for his sons, but published by his family – which record the further agony of the Armenians.
If you’re Turkey, you start playing that game yourself.
The country’s ruling Justice and Development (AKP) party has announced plans to develop a 6,000-member team devoted to shaping public opinion through social media, the Wall Street Journal has reported.
A senior party official quoted in the Journal described the project as “aim[ed] at developing a positive political language which we are teaching to our volunteers,” and that “when the opposing camp spreads disinformation about the party, we correct them with valid information, always using positive language.”
A handful of other countries, namely China and Vietnam, officially employ similar propaganda tactics. Both those countries are ranked far more harshly on Reporters Without Borders’ “Enemies of the Internet” index.
- Turkish media freedom questioned after more than 60 journalists jailed (The National)
- Erdogan Says Ready to Die for Democracy as Turkey Protests Flare (Business Week)
- Turkish officials blame protesters for failed Olympics bid (The National)
- Turkish business dynasties accused of backing ‘post-modern coup’ (Reuters)
- Revenge or democracy? Turkey’s divisive trial (DW)
- Power Struggle Splits Turkish Ruling Party (Spiegel)
Pipeline Politics and the Syrian War: Interview with Pepe Escobar (and other pipeline politics news)
- Syria intervention plan fueled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concern (Nafeez Ahmed)
- Mystery Sponsor Of Weapons And Money To Syrian Mercenary “Rebels” Revealed (Zero Hedge)
- Qatar seeks gas pipeline to Turkey (The National)
- America, Syria and Russia: Opening the Gates to Hell (News With Views)
- Foreign involvement in the Syrian civil war (Wikipedia)
- NATO Chief: No Plans for Alliance Action in Syria (The State)
- Hollande: France and US Want to Send ‘Strong Message’ (TDS)
- Paid Off?: France wins Saudi Arabia defence contract (Economic Times)
- Erdogan wants Syria regime change, not limited strikes (Al Arabiya)
- Denmark Backs Military Strike in Syria (TDS)
- Germany: No Plans to Join Syria Military Action (AP)
- Iran vows ‘immediate destruction’ of Israel if Syria attacked (RT)
- Obama Hypes Case for War, But Won’t Talk Strategy (Antiwar)
- Experts warn Syria attack could escalate violence and further destabilize region (Raw Story)
- Eight things to consider before intervening in Syria (Juan Cole)
- Sixth US Ship Now in Eastern Mediterranean ‘As Precaution’ (Reuters)
- Russia Honors Pre-2011 Contracts With Syria (UPI)
- Syria Pays for Russian Weapons to Boost Ties With Moscow (Daily Times)
- Jordanians Protest Proposed Military Action Against Syria (Washington Post)
- Amid Syria Tensions, Israel Deploys Iron Dome Battery in Greater Tel Aviv Area (Jerusalem Post)
- Syrian Strikes Would Battle-Test Chinese Radars (Defense News)
- Syrian Army Moves Scud Missiles to Avoid Strike (Reuters)
With a powerful prime minister bent on pumping up growth ahead of elections but a sliding currency and rising borrowing costs, Turkish policymakers are caught between a rock and a hard place.
Rattled by weeks of anti-government protests and with a peace initiative for Kurdish militants looking increasingly fragile, the last thing Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan needs with an election cycle starting next year is an economic slowdown.
His rhetoric has become increasingly populist in recent weeks, vowing to “choke” speculators who he said were growing rich off “the sweat of the people”, and blaming a “high interest rate lobby” for seeking to undermine Turkey’s growth prospects.
Such words from a leader who has transformed the economy over the past decade, overseeing some of Europe’s fastest growth and a near tripling of Turks’ nominal wealth, has unnerved investors who have long bought in to the Turkey rising story.
“The Turkey narrative has certainly suffered,” said Christian Keller, a former IMF representative in Turkey and now a senior economist at Barclays Capital in London.
Erdogan and the ruling AK Party he founded have built their reputation on Turkey’s economic transformation, winning three successive parliamentary elections over the past decade as a burgeoning middle class grew richer.
But his determination to maintain that record has laid bare a rift between fellow populists such as Economy Minister Zafar Caglayan, a vocal critic of the central bank, and more moderate and voices such as Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, viewed as a steadier hand trusted by the markets.
Erdogan’s appointment of columnist and TV commentator Yigit Bulut, who last month suggested the prime minister’s enemies were seeking to kill him by telekinesis, as his chief economic adviser, as well as probes into recent stock market transactions and currency trades, have done little to calm nerves.
“Turkey is a plane which has only reached the start of the runway … Now it is time for the plane to take off,” Bulut wrote in a newspaper column this week, saying the economy needed to be tripled in size over the next decade.
It faces strong headwinds.
Concern about the U.S. Federal Reserve’s planned withdrawal of monetary stimulus, combined with Turkey’s domestic unrest, sent the lira tumbling to its weakest ever this month and are doing little to support growth prospects.
Babacan acknowledged on Wednesday that any downward revision to the government’s 4.0 percent growth forecast this year should come as “no surprise”.
Istanbul’s administrative court gave a green light to demolish city’s Gezi Park, which was at the center of heated nationwide protests sparked by the decision to get rid of the park and turn it into a monument to the Ottoman Empire.
The park has turned into a cradle of anti-government unrest since the protests began in late May. Protests quickly became violent as police used teargas and water canon to disperse protesters.
The demonstrations, which went on throughout most of June, resulted in the death of four people and around 7,500 injured.
A police officer has also died after falling from a bridge while in pursuit of fleeing protesters in Adana.
An Istanbul administrative court overturned a lower court’s ruling to stop the Turkish government’s plan to redevelop Istanbul’s Gezi Park after the Culture and Tourism Ministry appealed the verdict.
The new development includes the rebuilding of the Ottoman artillery barracks, which will have a shopping mall inside one of the buildings. The protests against the construction spread nationally, growing into a larger opposition by those unhappy with Erdogan’s “authoritarian style of rule.”
Israel used a Turkish military base to launch one of its recent airstrikes against Syria from the sea, a reliable source told RT. Israel has been under scrutiny since last week, when it was reported to be responsible for a July 5 depot attack in Latakia.
News that Turkey assisted Israel in attacking another Muslim state could result in serious turmoil for Ankara, once the information is confirmed.
“Our source is telling us that Israeli planes left a military base inside Turkey and approached Latakia from the sea to make sure that they stayed out of Syrian airspace so that they cannot become a legitimate target for the Syrian air force,” RT’s Paula Slier reports.
In response, Turkey has denied that Israel has used its base to strike Syria.
Police have blocked hundreds of journalists from marching in Istanbul to demand press freedoms and denounce the harassment of colleagues during a spate of anti-government demonstrations last month.
Journalists were detained or targeted by police while covering the nearly three weeks of protests, and some who sided with protesters were sacked or resigned.
The journalists on Friday planned to walk to a main square but were prevented by police. They staged a brief sit-in before dispersing.
If you’re reading the American press, you might think that the protests in Turkey have died down. Nothing could be further from the truth. Stranger still, if you are reading the Turkish press, you might conclude that you are in Egypt, because that seems to be the only topic of conversation.
This is why: Conventional wisdom has it that the Egyptian coup was a “nightmare” for Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, putting an end to his ambitious foreign policy fantasies. To an extent, this is true.
But from the domestic political perspective, it’s just the opposite: It’s his most hopeful dream come true. Not only did it turn foreign media attention away from Turkey, it enabled him to turn all domestic attention away from Turkey, lending credibility to his spurious claims that the Gezi Park protesters were coup-plotters (despite extensive, serious research suggesting that they were anything but).
by Ece Toksabay and Daren Butler
Turkish police fired teargas and water cannon on Monday at protesters who tried to defy a closure order and enter an Istanbul park at the centre of protests against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government.
Gezi Park was only open for a few hours after Istanbul’s governor allowed people back in, following often violent protests last month against plans to redevelop the area, when riot police ordered it shut ahead of a planned rally.
Hundreds of people were forced to leave before the start of the protest organized by the Taksim Solidarity group of political parties and non-governmental organizations opposed to the redevelopment.
Police then intervened with water cannon to break up a crowd of several thousand marching along Istanbul’s main pedestrian shopping street towards Taksim Square where the park is located, before firing teargas to break up smaller pockets of protesters.
by Liz Sly
The Washington Post
The ouster on Wednesday of Egypt’s elected Muslim Brotherhood government barely a year after it took office represents a significant setback for the Islamist movements that have proved the biggest beneficiaries so far of the Arab Spring revolts.
From Tunisia to war-torn Syria, anti-Islamist activists have begun expressing unhappiness with the religious parties empowered by freedoms the turmoil unleashed. That the backlash has crescendoed in Egypt — the Arab world’s political and cultural trendsetter and the birthplace of the Muslim Brotherhood 80 years ago — is likely to resonate far beyond, perhaps most forcefully in Syria.
- Syria hails ouster of Egypt’s Morsi as ‘great achievement’ (AFP)
- Turkey slams Morsi’s military ouster (AP)
- Abbas Rejoices, Hamas Goes Quiet After Egyptian President’s Fall (VoA)
- Egypt shows power only comes from force, Somali militants say (Reuters)
- Israel fears Jihadist attacks after Morsi ouster (Ynet)
by Barak Ravid
Turkey’s deputy prime minister on Monday accused foreign powers, the Jewish Diaspora and international media of triggering the demonstrations that have wracked the country over the last few weeks, according to reports in Turkish media.
“World powers and the Jewish Diaspora prompted the unrest and have actively encouraged it,” Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said, adding that the international media has played a large part in the “conspiracy as well.”
“The ones trying to obstruct Great Turkey’s way will not succeed,” he declared.
Turkey says the overthrow of Egypt’s Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi by the military is “unacceptable” and is calling for his release from house arrest.
Egyptian armed forces ousted Morsi on Wednesday after one year in office. The military installed a temporary civilian government, suspended the constitution and called for new elections.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Thursday democratically elected leaders should only be ousted through elections and said Morsi was deposed through illegal means.
A Turkish court has ruled against an Istanbul construction project that triggered nationwide unrest, it has been revealed.
The plan to redevelop Taksim Square was blocked by the court in a ruling made on 8 June – as anti-government protests raged.
It is unclear why the ruling has only now been released.
The Taksim Square issue served as a lightning rod for a far wider range of protesters’ grievances.