Turkey's PM takes aim at writer Paul Auster over Israel

Wed Feb 1, 2012 10:57am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Daren Butler and Simon Cameron-Moore

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan branded acclaimed novelist Paul Auster as ignorant on Tuesday for refusing to visit Turkey in protest at the jailing of journalists, accusing the Jewish American writer of double-standards for visiting Israel.

Though a foreign novelist made an easy target, there is rising unease over press freedom under Erdogan among Turkish liberals, many of whom had supported his mission to strengthen democracy and tame Turkey's coup-making generals.

Some 100 members of the news media are in jail in Turkey, one of the highest numbers worldwide. The government insists they are not being prosecuted because of what they wrote.

"If you come so what? If you don't come, so what? Will Turkey lose prestige?," Erdogan said in a mocking voice to applause from provincial leaders of his ruling AK Party at a meeting in the capital Ankara.

He criticized 64-year-old Auster, author of "The New York Trilogy" and more than a dozen other novels, for visiting Israel, with which Turkey has frosty relations, accusing the Jewish state of repression and rights violations.

"Supposedly Israel is a democratic, secular country, a country where freedom of expression and individual rights and freedoms are limitless. What an ignorant man you are," Erdogan said.

"Aren't these the ones that rained bombs down on Gaza? The ones that launched phosphorus bombs and used chemical weapons. How can you not see this?" Erdogan said.

"This gentleman can't see the repression and rights violations in Israel... This is serious disrespect to Turkey."   Continued...