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By On April 18, 2018

US warns Turkey of consequences if jailed pastor isn't freed

WASHINGTON (AP) â€" The Trump administration warned Turkey on Wednesday that it is considering punitive “consequences” if the NATO ally does not throw out the charges or acquit an American pastor accused of espionage and aiding terrorist groups.

Wess Mitchell, the top U.S. diplomat for Europe, said the charges against Andrew Brunson, 50, of North Carolina, were “laughable.”

“The Turks claim to have a high standard of justice, the indictment suggests otherwise,” Mitchell told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “This is clearly an innocent man. We are watching to see if the Turks adhere to their stated standards of justice. If that does not happen, we are considering options for consequences.”

He said the State Department is consulting with Congress about “possible measures” to take against Turkey if Brunson is not releas ed, but he did not elaborate.

Mitchell’s comments came a day after President Donald Trump called Brunson “a fine gentleman and Christian leader” who was “being persecuted in Turkey for no reason. They call him a Spy, but I am more a Spy than he is. Hopefully he will be allowed to come home to his beautiful family where he belongs!”

Brunson, who faces up to 35 years in prison, denied any wrongdoing at a court hearing Monday in Aliaga, Turkey, that was attended by the U.S. ambassador at-large for religious freedom, Sam Brownback.

Brunson was arrested in the aftermath of a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey for alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, as well as a network led by U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is blamed by Turkey for the political unrest.

“I don’t accept any of the allegations or accusations,” the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Brunson as telling the court.

“I did not engage in any il legal activity. I had no relations with anyone engaged in such activity,” Brunson said. “I am a Christian pastor. I did not join an Islamic movement. Their aims and mine are different.”

Source: Google News Turkey | Netizen 24 Turkey

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By On April 18, 2018

Turkey's President Erdogan calls snap election in June

]]> Europe Europe Turkey's President Erdogan calls snap election in June

A handout photo made available by the Turkish Presidential Press Office shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a press conference at at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, TurkeyImage copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Erdogan spent 11 years as prime minister before becoming Turkey's first directly elected president in 2014

Turkey will hold snap presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 June, brought forward by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from November 2019.

He has run Turkey since 2002 and will seek five more years with beefed up powers approved in a referendum last year.

The idea of an early poll was initially proposed by nationalist allies.

Mr Erdogan said in televised speech the country needed the new election to rid it of "the diseases of the old system".

"Developments in Syria and elsewhere have made it urgent to switch to the new executive system in order to take steps for our country's future in a stronger way," the president said in a live broadcast.

Mr Erdogan said he had made the decision after speaking to the head of the nationalist MHP party, Devlet Bahceli, who is expected to form an alliance with Mr Erdogan's ruling AK Party in the parliamentary polls.

  • Erdogan: Turkey's pugnacious president
  • Emotional Erdogan hails coup resisters

Why the rush?

Mark Lowen, BBC Turkey correspondent

This was a carefully choreographed dance.

After repeatedly ruling out early elections, the government wheeled out its coalition partner on Tuesday to make a U-turn, before staging a "discussion" on Wednesday and confirming a date even earlier than expected.

So why the rush? Cynics would say President Erdogan is trying to clip the wings of his main rival, Meral Aksener, who formed a new right-wing party just months ago.

And with the Turkish lira having reached record lows this year - it's the world's worst performing emerging-markets currency - a yawning current account deficit and stubbornly high inflation, Mr Erdogan possibly wanted to pre-empt any economic crash.

His supporters say he simply wants to bring clarity after last year's referendum to change Turkey from a parliamentary to a presidential republic.

The benefits are clear: ride the wave of nationalism after the recent military offensive against Kurdish fighters in Syria and catch the opposition off guard.

But the risk is that some voters will see it as a ploy and will punish a government for economic pain that's already biting.

  • How Meral Aksener went her own way

The constitutional changes, which the Turkish people narrowly backed in last year's referendum, include the abolition of the prime minister, whose powers would be assumed by an executive president.

The e xtended powers will only take effect after the presidential election.

The accelerated timetable also means Turkey will be voting under the state of emergency imposed since the failed coup in July 2016 which attempted to oust President Erdogan.

Image caption Analysts say Mr Erdogan's desicison may be to curb the increasing threat from opposition leaders like Meral Aksener

Meral Aksener, whose new nationalist Iyi (Good) Party split from Mr Bahceli's MHP to protest his alliance with Mr Erdogan, said hers was the "most prepared party" and announced she would stand for the presidency by collecting 100,000 signatures.

The opposition also welcomed the president's announcement. "Bring it on," said Bulent Tezca n, a spokesperson for the Republican People's Party (CHP).

  • Turkey's Erdogan rejects French talks offer
  • Erdogan says German leaders are enemies

Mr Tezcan said the country's state of emergency needed to be lifted immediately. "There cannot be an election under emergency rule. The country needs to be brought out of the emergency rule regime starting today."

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By On April 18, 2018

Greece and Turkey Are Inching Toward War

Argument

Greece and Turkey Are Inching Toward War

Populists in both countries are deepening a rare military crisis between NATO allies.

By Yiannis Baboulias |
Greek Prime minister Alexis Tsipras and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Athens, on Dec. 7, 2017. (LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images) Greek Prime minister Alexis Tsipras and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Athens, on Dec. 7, 2017. (LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Yiannis Baboulias is an investigative journalist, the writer of a forthcoming book on Golden Dawn, and a co-founder of the Precarious E urope project.

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Stephen M. WaltSource: Google News Turkey | Netizen 24 Turkey

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By On April 18, 2018

Turkey's Erdogan calls for snap elections on June 24

In an address at his presidential palace on Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the country urgently needed to make the switch to an executive presidency [Rasit Aydogan/Anadolu]
In an address at his presidential palace on Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the country urgently needed to make the switch to an executive presidency [Rasit Aydogan/Anadolu]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for snap parliamentary and presidential elections to be held on June 24, more than a year earlier than planned.

In an address at his presidential palace on Wednesday, Erdogan said the country urgently needed to make the switch t o an executive presidency.

The date will still need to be confirmed by the election commission, he said, but preparations would begin.

His comments came after meeting Devlet Bahceli, head of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), who, a day earlier, had floated the prospect of early polls.

The parliamentary and presidential polls had previously been slated for November 2019.

Nationalist sentiment

The call for an early election comes as nationalist sentiment is running high over Turkey's recent military operation in Syria that pushed Syrian Kurdish forces from a northern enclave.

Erdogan said during the address that the new system needs to be implemented quickly in order to deal with a series of challenges, including Turkey's fight against Kurdish fighters in Syria and Iraq.

"Be it the cross-border operations in Syria, or incidents of historic importance centred in Syria and Iraq, they have made it imperative for Turkey to overcome uncertainties quickly," Erdogan said.

Ankara has labelled the Syrian Kurdish fighters "terrorists", saying they are affiliated with an outlawed Kurdish group fighting inside Turkey.

Presidential system

With the upcoming election, Turkey will switch from a parliamentary system to a presidential one that will increase the powers of the president.

The system was changed in an April 2017 referendum that was narrowly won by the government's "yes" camp.

The constitutional changes passed in the vote give the next president new powers to appoint vice presidents, ministers, high-level officials and senior judges. They also allow the president to dissolve parliament, issue executive decrees and impose states of emergency.

Erdogan-Bahceli alliance

The snap elections were called a day after Bahceli made a surprise call for elections in the summer.

Bahceli argued that there is "no point in prolonging this any longer", citing efforts by unnamed groups to foment chaos in Turkey.

Erdogan needs a 51 percent majority to be re-elected in the first round of the presidential election.

Earlier this year, his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), reached an election alliance with Bahceli's MHP.

State of emergency

In a related development, Turkey's parliament was scheduled to vote on Wednesday on whether to prolong a state of emergency that was declared after a failed coup attempt in July 2016.

Parliament was widely expected to extend the measure for a seventh time despite calls at home and abroad for it to end.

The European Union, which Ankara seeks to join, said in a report published on Tuesday that measures undertaken by Turkey under the almost two-year-old state of emergency have curtailed civil and political rights and called for its immediate lifting.

In response, Turkish officials accused the bloc of "bias" and "lacking empathy" over the "terror threat" faced by the country.

The government has asked parliament to extend the emergency decree, arguing that security threats from a movement led by US-based Muslim leader Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuses of masterminding the coup, have not abated.

It also cites Turkey's continued struggle against Kurdish rebels and other groups.

Gulen has denied any ties to the failed coup.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera News

Source: Google News Turkey | Netizen 24 Turkey

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By On April 18, 2018

Turkey seeks to extend state of emergency for 7th time


Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, centre, accompanied by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, arrives to deliver a speech at his ruling Justice and Development (AKP) Party weekly meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, April 17, 2018. The ruling party will evaluate a call for early presidential and parliamentary elections, scheduled for 2019, made by the nationalist leader, Devlet Bahceli, who suggested Aug. 26, 2018 as a possible date, saying “there is no point in prolonging this any longer.” Following a narrowly approved referendum last year, Turkey is switching from a parliamentary system to a presidential system that consolidates most powers in the hands of the president. (Kayhan Ozer/Pool Photo via AP) (Associated Press) April 17 at 1:16 PM

ANKARA, Turkey â€" Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government is seeking an extension of the state of emergency it declared following a failed coup in 2016.

The government submitted to parliament a motion to prolong it three more months following a National Security Council meeting on Tuesday. A vote is expected Wednesday. It would be its seventh extension.

The move comes despite widespread calls for Turkey to end the state of emergency.

A U.N. report last month said Turkey’s state of emergency had led to human rights violations, including arbitrary detentions and dismissals, torture and ill-treatment.

The main opposition party accuses the government of misusing its emergency powers to erode democracy and arrest government critics. Its supporters staged sit-in demonstrations Monday across Turkey to demand an end to the emergency declaration.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Th is material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Google News Turkey | Netizen 24 Turkey

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By On April 18, 2018

Turkey's anti-war protesters detained: 'Everything is a crime'

]]> Europe Europe Turkey's anti-war protesters detained: 'Everything is a crime'

Students show posters of detained colleagues
Image caption Students show posters of detained colleagues

"It was 04:00 when the police came beating at my door. 'Open up! Open up!' they were shouting," recalls Denizhan Eren, a 23-year-old college student.

"As soon as I opened the door, they yelled 'Lie down!' They had huge guns and they were wearing balaclavas."

Denizhan is one of a number of students from Turkey's prestigious Bogazici University who have been detained in Istanbul in recent weeks.

In total 31 students have been detained. While 10 have been freed, eight have been released pending trial and another 13 students are still being held in pre-trial detention.

The arrests began after a demonstration on campus that opposed other students handing out Turkish delight to hail the army's capture of the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria.

The prote sters had opened up a banner reading: "There should be no celebration of an occupation or a massacre."

This did not go down well with the government. It considers the US-backed Kurdish YPG militia that controlled Afrin a terrorist group and an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Responding to the university protests, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan labelled the students traitors and terrorists for speaking out against the operation.

"We will evoke their right to education," he said.

  • Profile: Turkey's pugnacious president
  • Long read: Erdogan's Turkey

The families of the jailed students later condemned the arrests at an emotional news conference. Some tried to hold back their tears, some were ranting in rage.

"This was a clear provocation," said one father. "Our children do not belong to prisons. Our children belong to their university. The authorities should apologis e."

Image caption Ozgur Tuncer (left) says Turkey treats people who are against war as terror propagandists

Academics were frustrated too. "How can we tolerate this? I cry every day. I'm in pain," said one professor.

"I want to be with my students. I was with them at the classroom, and I should be with them in prison too."

'They never threw a stone'

Ozgur Tuncer's daughter is still being held in detention. Her "sensitive" Yaren, she says, is "anti-war" and a "supporter of peace".

"Being anti-war in Turkey is perceived as terror propaganda these days. The Turkish constitution has a clause protecting freedom of speech and expression. Isn't th is a country of rule of law?" she asks.

Image caption Yaren's parents hold a poster of the student, detained last month in Istanbul

"These children never threw a stone, never held a weapon or even a stick.

"All of them are anti-war, anti-guns. How can you call such children terrorists? How can you portray them as enemies? I find it very difficult to comprehend."

In the first month after Turkey launched its operation in Afrin, the authorities detained 648 people over social media posts criticising the action.

Another 197 people were taken into custody for expressing criticism in other forms, including street protests, or for supporting the demonstrations.

  • Afrin: Why is Turkey targeting Kurdish fo rces?
  • Who are the Kurds?

When the Turkish Medical Association published a statement with the headline "War is a matter of public health", warning that conflicts such as Afrin could lead to further health problems, 11 doctors were detained. President Erdogan accused the doctors of treason.

Since then, many more criminal investigations have been opened.

'Everything is a crime'

"In Turkey, the issue that has led to the harshest targeting of peaceful freedom of expression is questions over the Kurdish issue," says Andrew Gardner from Amnesty International.

"This has never been more the case than unfortunately today with Turkey's military operation in Afrin.

"If you look at international human rights law and Turkey's own constitution, opposing war or opposing the way in which the war is being fought is protected speech. It shouldn't be prosecuted in any way. But now it's a de -facto crime to criticise the Afrin operation, or any military operation."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption President Erdogan has accused critics of Turkey's operation in Afrin of treason

Academic Nurcan Baysal was detained a day after the launch of the military incursion on Afrin over her anti-war posts on Twitter.

"Police broke down my door when they came to detain me. I thought my house was being bombed, or a civil war had just erupted. What was my crime? I had just demanded peace," she says.

Ms Baysal was released after three days in detention. Her trial is set to start next month. She is accused of spreading hate and animosity within society and is fac ing three years' imprisonment.

"Today, everything is a crime in Turkey. Everyone is a terrorist. Being anti-war is a crime. Demanding peace is a crime. Saying no to death is a crime," she says.

"They want us to applaud death. I refuse to do that. If we do not raise our voice, more of the like will follow. If people demanding peace are arrested today, who knows why others will be arrested tomorrow?"

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