The Times Gezi letter a 'hate crime,' says Turkish EU minister
ISTANBUL - Anadolu Agency
EU Minister Egemen Bağış has been touring Istanbul's neighborhoods at iftar dinners and sahur meals since the beginning of Ramadan. AA photo
The Turkish EU Minister has described an open letter on the Gezi unrest published in The Times as a "hate crime" and a crime against humanity." The letter published in the British daily criticized Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for police violence during the recent wave of protests.
"Some people are bringing up accusations by signing a letter to people who perhaps have never come to Turkey, or only for a holiday. Believe me, [that is] a crime against humanity, a hate crime. Because such serious accusations are unacceptable," Bağış said during a sahur meal organized by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Istanbul's Kadıköy district.
The letter that appeared in the British newspaper included the signatures of Hollywood celebrities such as Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, among other internationally renowned artists and scholars.
Erdoğan also slammed the letter yesterday, arguing that those who signed it had been "deceived" and announcing that he would sue The Times for publishing it.
Bağış also denounced attempts to describe Erdoğan as a "dictator." "Thankfully, there is a democracy in Turkey and three elections ahead of us. There will be a process where those who have a problem with national will or democracy will be able to [express themselves]. It seems to me that some people are seeking to do outside the ballot box what they cannot do at the ballot box," he said.
Meanwhile, comedian Şafak Sezer who was recently criticized on social media for having asked the prime minister for forgiveness after he had given support to the Gezi protest also participated in the meal.
Bağış said he had told Sezer not to worry about the reactions he had got on social media. "I told him: We receive many insulting and cursing messages. Don't let it bring you down. We have become experienced with time," he said.