Is model Turkey sliding into authoritarianism?
The trial of prize-winning Turkish journalist Nedim Sener resumed today. His case, along with many others, are raising concerns about Turkey and its model democracy in the Middle East.
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Turkey's vague antiterror laws may be to blame, at least in part, for the wave of arrests.Skip to next paragraph
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Long pretrial detention, broad police powers, a tendency to launch cases on meager evidence, and, increasingly, the arrest of lawyers representing detainees mean that there are serious problems in Turkey for the rights of defendants, says Ms. Sinclair-Webb.
"With laws as they currently stand, and with a police-dominated approach, the potential is there to have witch hunts against your political opponents," she says.
In the years after it first came to power in 2002, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party forged ahead enacting legal reforms and wresting power from the once-dominant military in a bid to join the European Union.
But Turkey's membership talks with the EU have ground to a halt. Now, with a surging economy forecast to grow 7.5 percent this year, Ankara isn't inclined to listen to criticism from the crisis-hit EU over its ongoing terrorism probes.
"I am having a hard time understanding those saying a professor should not be arrested while thousands of other people are being arrested in Turkey," said Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin after the arrest of Professor Ersanli.
With Turkey assuming an ever more important role in the tumultuous politics of the Middle East, its Western allies also seem reluctant to dish out criticism. Ankara's encouragement of Arab uprisings has pushed it into tighter cooperation with Washington. In particular, its support of the Syrian opposition movement has aligned it with the United States against Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, and his ally Iran.
On a visit this month, Vice President Joe Biden asked Ankara to join a new round of sanctions against Iran – but did not raise the arrests or the issue of press freedom, diplomatic sources told the Milliyet newspaper.
"It may be that they don't want to alienate the government," says Soli Ozel, an international relations professor at Istanbul's Bilgi University. "They believe there are more pressing issues and that Turkey has a crucial role to play in the wake of the Arab revolt."
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