WaPo Editors: Erdogan Turning Turkey Into ‘Totalitarian Prison’

Chuck Ross | Reporter

The Washington Post editorial board is calling on the U.S. and other nations to “loudly” protest what it says is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s descent into dictatorship.

“Gradually but inexorably, a nation that once aspired to be an exemplar of enlightened moderation is being transformed by Mr. Erdogan into a dreary totalitarian prison,” reads the editorial, published Monday.

Erdogan has for years rolled back press freedoms while targeting government employees, police officers and military members of perceived links to opposition groups.

ALSO WATCH: Erdogan has imprisoned American pastor

As The Post notes, more than 60,000 Turks have been arrested while another 150,000 have been removed from their jobs

The incident that drew The Post’s attention was the recent sentencing of 23 journalists to prison on “patently ridiculous charges” of tweeting about allegations that they were affiliated with terrorist groups.

“Turkey once had a robust, independent press, but Mr. Erdogan has waged a multifront campaign: closing media outlets, forcing others into new ownership, and using friendly judges and prosecutors. In the latest cases, some reporters and editors were convicted for what they said on Twitter,” the editorial reads.

Erdogan began ramping up his crackdown on the press and Turkish society after the failed July 15, 2016 coup attempt in Ankara and Istanbul.

The Turkish president has accused Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen of masterminding the failed overthrow. Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan’s, lives in exile in Pennsylvania. Erdogan has attempted to force the U.S. government of extraditing Gulen, though American officials have so far said that there is not enough evidence showing that Gulen orchestrated the coup attempt.

The Post editorial doesn’t mention it, but Erdogan’s regime has also jailed at least two Americans based on false accusations of being members of terrorist groups. Andrew Brunson, a pastor from North Carolina, has been in a Turkish jail since October 2016 on vague charges of aiding terrorists.

Brunson has yet to face trial, and Erdogan has said that he is using the American as a bargaining chip to force the U.S. to hand over Gulen.

Serkan Golge, a NASA scientist, was sentenced last month to seven-and-a-half years in prison because of his alleged associations with followers of Gulen. Erdogan’s government have dubbed the cleric’s supporters a terrorist group, though Golge has denied any links to the organization. (RELATED: GOP Senator Calls For Sanctions Against Turkey Over Jailed NASA Scientist)

One piece of evidence used against Golge, who holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and Turkey, was that he was in possession of a $1 bill. That denomination of U.S. currency is considered by some in Turkey to be a symbol indicating support for Gulen.

“The show trials underscore how far Turkey has fallen from Western norms of democracy, human rights and rule of law. Mr. Erdogan is happily marching alongside Russia, China, Egypt, Cuba and others where legitimacy to rule rests on coercion and thought control,” reads The Post’s editorial.

“Mr. Erdogan’s dictatorship must be called out for what it is. Even if he covers his ears, the United States and other nations must protest, and loudly.”

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