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Threats of Violence Against Govt Critics Fuel Fears of Escalation in Turkey Political War

A top adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week posted to Twitter what observers described as thinly-veiled death threats against opponents of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, deepening concerns that the open political warfare which has been rocking the country may escalate further. Judiciary figures linked to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen have been pursuing and widening a corruption probe that has ensnared AKP elites, and AKP figures have retaliated by moving to purge the judiciary of opponents. Referencing elements aligned against the government, Erodgan advisor Hamdi Kilic tweeted last week a threatening message.

“Despite all the damage it has sustained, there is still a state tradition in this country. If you read some history it is enough to understand this,” he wrote and then his menacing message followed: “Some of the reflexes that our state tradition developed throughout its history are very creepy. A reminder from me.”

The posts were widely taken as gesturing toward heavy-handed tactics, including violent ones, historically used by the Turkish military to suppress dissent. Turkish-based journalist Michael van der Galien asked rhetorically if the AKP was “now actually threatening people with murder,” a reading confirmed as accurate by Manhattan Institute Scholar and Turkey expert Claire Berlinski.

Meanwhile Sevan Nisanyan, a prominent Turkish-Armenian blogger, was jailed on charges of illegal construction, after having been convicted last December of blasphemy. He was sentenced to two years, and claims that he is in fact being punished for challenging anti-speech restrictions. Agence France-Presse tersely noted in its report on the controversy that “Turkey has long been criticized for a lack of press freedom, and in December the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists named it the world’s number one jailer of journalists for the second straight year.”

[Photo: Tainest1954 / YouTube]