Turkey has been sliding into an ugly Islamist despotism. Yet its relations with the European Union (EU) which it aspires to join has rarely been better. Some call it a mutually “transactional” improvement: “pragmatism.” Others, in less diplomatic language, call it Turkish blackmailing on the back of the refugee crisis. Even Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutogu admitted that his latest round of negotiations with Europe’s leaders was a fine bargaining “a la Kayseri,” a Turkish city famous for its tough-bargaining merchants.
In reality, modern Turkey has never been this galactically distant from the core values enshrined by the European civilization and its institutions, including even the EU.
When Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled that the detention for 92 days of two journalists, Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, constituted a breach of their basic rights, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not hide his anger. He said he would not respect or obey the Supreme Court’s ruling.
The journalists had been charged with espionage and terrorism after their secular newspaper, Cumhuriyet, ran photos and a story about Turkish intelligence sending trucks full of arms to jihadists fighting in Syria. Prosecutors demand life sentences for the prominent journalists.
Erdogan does not mind playing the supreme leader beyond the check on power of law. In a March 11 speech, Erdogan said:
“The Constitutional Court has to be one of the institutions that should be the most sensitive about the interests and rights of the state and the people. But this institution and its president have not hesitated to rule against the country and its people on one of the most concrete examples of a massive attack towards Turkey in recent times.”