Turkish President Erdogan’s Dangerous Autocratic Tactics

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In 2016, Rifat Cetin, a Turkish doctor, received a suspended one-year jail sentence — he could have been imprisoned for up to five years — for violating Article 299 of Turkish law code, which bars insults to the Turkish President. The criminally insulting tweet in question compares President Erdogan to the villainous character of “Gollum” from the popular fantasy movie series, “Lord of the Rings.” During the trial, Peter Jackson, the director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, intervened to testify that the images were no insult, as they actually depicted Smeagol, Gollum’s good alter-ego. The famous director’s statement may have been enough to get the doctor off, legally speaking, but in the end Mr. Cetin was still stripped of his parental custody rights, and was fired from his job.

Overall, Dr. Cetin did well for himself, in Erdogan’s Turkey. This is because President Erdogan isn’t just an Islamist dictator and insecure bully. He is also crazy. And very dangerous to the Western world.

In recent times, Erdogan’s “speech police” have unprecedently reached across the borders. Enes Kanter, NBA center for the Oklahoma City Thunder, originally from Turkey, now has an arrest warrant out for him in Istanbul. Erdogan wants him brought for “questioning” for being a member of a terror group. Kanter tweeted insults about him, and supports Fethullah Gulen, an Islamist rival of Erdogan’s. Unable to get Kanter from the U.S., the Turkish embassy was still able to have him detained at a Romanian airport, and most disturbingly, arrested his father back in Turkey, where he could face torture.

Also in 2017, Michael Rubin, an American foreign policy expert, with no Turkish ties, had a criminal complaint filed in Turkey against him for his criticisms of Erdogan.

In 2016, Erdogan sought and won the prosecution of comedian Jan Böhmermann, who recited a crude poem about Erdogan on German television. From this incident, Germans learned that it was common practice for the German ambassador in Turkey to be summoned to Ankara for obscure “insults” to the Turkish state or its officials. Once, the German Ambassador was summoned because schools in Saxony, Germany, were using teaching materials that blamed Turkey for the Armenian genocide.

And Erdogan’s not just infringing on Western speech rights.

This past May, during Erdogan’s visit to the White House, his security detail assaulted and stomped on American citizens who were peacefully protesting the president at the Turkish Embassy in D.C. The bloody clash sent nine people to the hospital. Video indicates that Erdogan himself may have ordered the attack. U.S. officials were outraged, and the State Department officially summoned Turkey’s ambassador to protest. But Erdogan’s government proved beyond shameless, as it summoned the U.S. ambassador to the Turkish Foreign Ministry to protest the “aggressive” action taken by U.S. officials against the bodyguards. And then Erdogan protested the U.S. arrest warrants for them.

This was the second visit in a row where Erdogan brought his thug violence to the U.S. A year prior, when scheduled to speak at the Brookings Institution, his security guards assaulted journalists trying to cover the event. Erdogan’s guards also tried to expel some of them, before being blocked by the Brookings’ staff.

Also in 2016, President Erdogan hinted that “his people” believed the U.S. was behind the failed coup in Turkey in July. His officials have even gone so far as to file a criminal complaint against three U.S. military officials for supposedly conspiring with the plotters.

Erdogan is also not afraid to funnel large amounts of money to Americans to allegedly affect U.S. policies. He has been caught paying an activist group in Ohio nearly $50,000 to undermine a network of Gulen charter schools operating in Ohio. More spectacularly, Turkish sources provided over $500,000 to soon-to-be, but now former National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who allegedly was prepared to prevent U.S. aid to the Syrian Kurds, another bitter Erdogan enemy, and help extradite Gulen to the Turks.

Like the character of Gollum, Erdogan is seeking his own “precious,” which seems to be a Sultanate crown in a revival of the Ottoman Empire. In 2016, he rejected the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and lamented the Treaty’s award of Aegean islands to Greece. Turkey’s pro-government media have taken to showing series of maps of Turkey with improved borders that bleed over into Greece, Syria, and Iraq. All this would just be amusing, except for the fact that Turkey has already invaded two of these neighbors — Iraq and Syria — and continues to occupy Cyprus. In both nations, Turkish forces have carved out areas under their control, with a section in Syria, home to about 1 million people, in which they run schools and keep the law, with the assistance of thousands of mostly Islamist Syrian rebels. And Erdogan has repeatedly threatened the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), the only real moderate U.S. allies in Syria, with further attack because of the prominence of the Kurds within the SDF forces. This is even while the SDF forces are working with the U.S. to isolate and liberate the city of Raqqa from ISIS (whose capitol it is).

Also like Gollum, the president of Turkey is not the supreme evil character in the Middle East. But Erdogan is crazy, evil, and dangerous nonetheless. The U.S. would do well to remember that.

Adam Turner is the General Counsel and Legislative Affairs Director for the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET). To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

Originally published at Newsmax: http://www.newsmax.com/AdamTurner/turkey-erdogan-dictator-freedom-of-speech/2017/06/28/id/798730/

Photo Credit: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images

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