'So-called' celebs who signed The Times Gezi letter were 'deceived': PM Erdoğan

'So-called' celebs who signed The Times Gezi letter were 'deceived': PM Erdoğan

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
So-called celebs who signed The Times Gezi letter were deceived: PM Erdoğan

A group of internationally renowned artists and scholars condemned the Turkish authorities’ heavy-handed crackdown on the Gezi Park protests, in a full-page letter published July 24 in British broadsheet The Times. DHA Photo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said the signatories of an open letter published in The Times criticizing him for police violence during the Gezi Park protests in Turkey were "seriously deceived."

"Such famous people should read well and understand the texts that they sign. Those who have signed this letter have been seriously deceived," Erdoğan said during the opening ceremony of an airport in the southeastern Şırnak province July 26. 

The letter that appeared in the British broadsheet included Hollywood celebrities such as Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon. 

"We regret that so-called celebrities who could not even show Turkey in a map have signed such a letter without reading its content, judging the sensitivity of the notions [in the letter], and without understanding the inside story of what happened in Turkey," the prime minister added.

Erdoğan also said legal action would be taken against The Times and those who wrote the open letter ad. "I wonder how much you took for publishing this letter The Times? This is your worth. We will give a legal fight," he said. "This letter will not cause the slightest stain to Turkey's reputation. But it will stain the newspapers and names who publish it."

Eralier in the day, Erdoğan had accused The Times of showing "lack of morality" in publishing the letter. "These are people who have rented out their minds. If they were sincere about democracy they would not act so immorally as to call a prime minister who was elected on 50 percent of the vote a dictator," Erdoğan said today in Istanbul.

'Dictatorial rule'

The full-page letter was published in The Times July 24. Along with Penn and Sarandon, it contained the signatures of internationally renowned artists and scholars such as movie director David Lynch, British actor Ben Kingsley or Anrew Mango, the biographer of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish state.

The prime minister’s orders “led to the deaths of five innocent youths,” the letter said, adding that he might be called to render account to the European Court of Human Rights for the police’s violence.

They also compared the counter-rallies organized by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to the annual Nuremberg rallies organized by the Nazis.

“Only days after clearing Taksim Square and Gezi Park relying on untold brutal force, you held a meeting in Istanbul, reminiscent of the Nuremberg Rally, with total disregard for the five dead whose only crime was to oppose your dictatorial rule,” the letter said.

Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesman Hüseyin Çelik described the letter, which was penned by a list of famous figures, including actors and authors, as an example of “arrogance,” saying it “was served to them [the writers] by those inside the country.”

Çelik also accused the celebrities of “ignoring” the situation in Syria and events in Egypt, and of harboring anti-AKP feelings.

“The answers that need to be given will be given. This is extremely arrogant and out of place behavior. We strongly refute and condemn it,” Çelik said.

The letter also emphasized that more journalists were imprisoned in Turkey than in Iran and China combined. “Moreover, you described these protesters as tramps, looters and hooligans, even alleging they were foreign-led terrorists. Whereas, in reality, they were nothing but youngsters wanting Turkey to remain a Secular Republic as designed by its founder Kemal Atatürk,” the letter added.

Other signatories included: Irish novelist Edna O’Brien, British Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, British actress Vanessa Redgrave, British film director of Turkish origin Fuad Kavur, Hungarian cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and American freelance journalist and writer Claire Berlinski.