I had a bit of trouble believing it when the news broke yesterday and Allahpundit dug into it. Could it be? Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan managed to pull off a close and highly contested “win” in a referendum which essentially put a government stamp of approval on handing him the powers of a dictator. And President Donald Trump called to congratulate him? It’s still not being confirmed at the White House as of this morning, but the Washington Post is reporting that it happened. And if it didn’t, as AP said, why in the world would Turkey risk a diplomatic meltdown by lying about a phone call?
“Disappointing” doesn’t begin to cover it. I can kind of see AP’s realpolitik take on wanting to maintain good relations with the leader of a nation who still has a pivotal role to play in both the war on ISIS and keeping a lid on the Syrian refugee crisis. But there are limits to such unpleasant pragmatism. Calling to congratulate a foreign leader on winning their own election is one thing, but this was just an insulting power grab.
So what sort of leader is being showered with praise by our own president? No sooner was the referendum vote completed than news broke of more oppressive activity coming out of Turkey. This time it was another series of arrests of newspaper editors, columnists and even a political cartoonist who had taken the dangerous step of criticizing Erdogan. It was the cartoonist in particular, named Musa Kart, who caught Jake Tapper’s attention on The Lead yesterday. Here’s the short segment on that subject.
Erdogan has been after Musa Kart for a while now. He already had the cartoonist arrested once last year and was reportedly quite “disappointed” when the man was found not guilty in court. Now he’s back in a cell again, all for having drawn some satire critical of the President’s actions and comments.
Local news outlet Hurriyet Daily News in Turkey provided more of the details of the rest of the journalists who have been locked up in a series of raids dating back to April 4th.
The former editor-in-chief of the daily, Can Dündar, was named as the prime suspect in the indictment prepared by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The charges directed at the suspects include “membership of an armed terrorist organization” and “helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member of it.”
Prosecutors are seeking between 7.5 and 15 years in prison sentence for Dündar, editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu, IPI Board Member Kadri Gürsel, Aydın Engin, Bülent Yener and Günseli Özaltay for “helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member.”
CEO of the daily Akın Atalay, Mehmet Orhan Erinç and Önder Çelik are charged with “helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member” and “abusing trust,” with the prosecutor demanding between 11.5 and 43 years in jail for them.
Erdogan’s administration is looking for as much as 29 years behind bars for Kart, with some of the other editors and columnists facing up to 43 years in jail. Given his age and health, this would pretty much be a life sentence for the cartoonist and several of the other journalists as well. Apparently writing something which the tyrant disagrees with is the same as aiding and abetting a terrorist group these days.
Speaking of people who are rotting in Erdogan’s dungeons, has anyone heard from American Pastor Andrew Brunson lately? The Secretary of State spoke with his wife earlier this month and just this past week the Vice President commented on how his release was “very important” and sent Mrs. Brunson a letter himself.
Citing his “deep, personal interest” over Brunson’s plight, Pence wrote: “I can assure you both that the State Department and this White House, under President Trump’s leadership, consider Andrew’s release and reunification with you and your three children extremely important.”
Pence also said that he had “personally discussed [Pastor Andrew’s] detention with senior Turkish officials,” according to ACLJ.
The one person I haven’t heard comment on it is President Trump. Did it come up on this congratulatory phone call? It would be nice to find out if the United States still has the clout to get one of our own people out of the dungeons of a supposed ally.