Çelik replies to US envoy’s criticism
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Hüseyin Çelik’s remarks came after Ricciardone questioned the growing number of journalists in jail.A senior ruling Justice and Development (AKP) party official has said the U.S. ambassador’s dismay at the imprisonment of journalists is normal, since he is not familiar with the terror-related charges brought against them, in an ongoing exchange over the state of free speech in Turkey.
“It’s normal that Mr. [Francis] Ricciardone cannot understand why they are behind bars, since he is not very familiar with the indictments. I wish the journalists were not behind bars, but if some journalists are in a tight embrace with terrorist organizations, they would face prosecution in any country,” deputy chairman Hüseyin Çelik told reporters.
He conceded that “sometimes people are victimized for expressing their views” but played down such cases as “exceptional.”
Çelik’s remarks came after Ricciardone questioned the growing number of journalists and intellectuals in jail, despite Turkey’s stated commitment to democracy. “I cannot understand how in a country whose democracy has come so far and is so cherished by the people – I don’t think Turks will ever let go of their democracy, I don’t think you’ll ever accept dictatorship in this country – so how can there be intellectuals and journalists behind bars in a country that so values freedom? I simply do not understand,” he told a group of reporters this week.
Çelik said that the AKP would have also objected if journalists were prosecuted because of their professional activities.
Commenting on last month’s botched air raid at Uludere, in which 34 people were killed after being mistaken for Kurdish militants, Çelik said that the four-hour footage of the incident had been handed over to the Diyarbakır prosecutor and four investigations were under way.