Author: Samuel Osborne

Posted on November 7, 2016

Turkey’s President Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks after he received a honorary doctorate from Medical Sciences University in Istanbul, Sunday, 6 November, 2016 AP


Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he doesn’t care if European leaders call him a dictator.

Speaking after international condemnation following the arrest of two leaders of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and 11 other MPs from the group on Friday, Mr Erdogan accused Europe of aiding terrorism by supporting Kurdish militants.

«Europe, as a whole, is abetting terrorism. Even though they declared the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] a terrorist organisation, this is clear,» he said in a televised speech on Sunday, Hurriyet Daily News reports.

«I don’t care if they [the West] call me a dictator or whatever else. It goes in one ear, out the other.»

He said the West should not hope to «bring Turkey into line» with «newspapers, caricatures, calling us a dictator, and so on, expecting that we would take a step back».

Relations between the EU and membership candidate Turkey are going through a «fragile» period, Turkish EU affairs minister Omer Celik said on Monday. He accused those who would call for a freeze in talks with Ankara of racism.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said she was “extremely worried” over the detention of HDP leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksek, while US State Department spokesman John Kirby said there was a “worrisome trend” of limiting freedom of expression in Turkey.

Turkish police had used tear gas and plastic bullets on Saturday to disperse a demonstration in Istanbul against the arrests.

Turkish authorities sparked further controversy on Friday by restricting social media and messaging services such as WhatsApp following the arrests.

The country remains under a state of emergency imposed after the failed coup in July, which allows Mr Erdogan and his government to bypass parliament when drafting new laws and to restrict or suspect citizens’ rights and freedoms.

European officials have been increasingly critical of Turkey’s crackdown on those it suspects of involvement in the attempted coup. More than 110,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants have been detained or suspended in a response that critics say is quashing legitimate opposition.

Some 170 newspapers, magazines, TV stations and news agencies have been closed, leaving 2,500 journalists unemployed, Turkey’s association of journalists says.

In October the government announced it would soon submit proposals to parliament for constitutional changes that would make Mr Erdogan «executive president», expanding his powers further.

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