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Clinton chides Turkey on rights record 17 juillet 2011

Posted by Acturca in Turkey / Turquie, USA / Etats-Unis.
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The New York Times (USA) Sunday, July 17, 2011, p. A 10

By Sebnem Arsu, Istanbul

In a series of pointed statements, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized Turkey, a close NATO ally, on Saturday, for its mixed record on press and other freedoms.

The United States has long counted on Turkey, a moderate Muslim nation, to serve as a bridge between Muslim and Western nations, and Mrs. Clinton couched her criticism by suggesting that it was crucial that Turkey continued to modernize at a time when countries throughout the region were in revolt and searching for models for democratic change.

« People in the Middle East and North Africa are seeking to draw lessons from Turkey’s experience, » she said at a news conference with Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. « Turkey’s history serves as a reminder that democratic development also depends on responsible leadership. »

In an earlier town hall event at which local reporters were excluded, Mrs. Clinton mentioned the continued detentions of scores of journalists and what she called « restrictions » on freedom of religion, according to The Associated Press. As she has before, she prodded leaders to reopen a long-closed Christian seminary. Although Turkey recognizes religions other than Islam, critics say the government could do more to embrace religious minorities, including Alawites.

The United States’ relationship with Turkey is a complicated one. Turkey has become a far more liberal country in recent years, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is praised by many for not letting his own deep religious beliefs erode the country’s secular traditions. But debate has intensified about whether Turkey has tilted east. The country has also taken a more assertive stance in the region as it senses a decline in American influence there.

In a sign of the conflicted relationship, Mrs. Clinton made a point on Saturday of thanking the Turkish authorities for their recent detention of more than a dozen suspected militants of Al Qaeda who are accused of planning to attack the United States Embassy in Turkey. But she also was unsparing in her assessment of Turkey, in particular of journalists’ detentions.
« I do not think it is necessary or in Turkey’s interests to be cracking down, » she said, according to The A.P. « It seems to me inconsistent with all the other advances Turkey has made. »

The Turkish Press Association says that more than 60 journalists are in jail, many charged with crimes related to their published work. At least two — Nedim Sener and Ahmet Sik, both investigative journalists critical of the ruling party and of an Islamic organization that supports the party — have not been notified of their charges since their arrests in March.
The Turkish government says it is detaining only 26 reporters on a variety of accusations that include possession of arms and exposing state secrets.

Mrs. Clinton also used her appearances in Turkey to praise the Syrian opposition, which was holding a conference in Istanbul to craft a strategy for wresting power from President Bashar al-Assad. But Mrs. Clinton did not repeat the administration’s strong anti-Assad statements from earlier in the week. « Syria’s future is up to the Syrian people, » she said, « but of course the efforts by the opposition to come together to organize in order to articulate a political agenda is an important part of political reform. »

The Syrian opposition was voting Saturday to determine who would serve on a committee that would work with critics of the Assad government in Syria. A top item on the agenda will be deciding whether to set up a shadow government or a temporary council to replace the current administration.

Correction: July 24, 2011, Sunday

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Because of an editing error, an article last Sunday about Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s criticism of Turkey’s record on press and other freedoms referred incorrectly to two imprisoned journalists, Nedim Sener and Ahmet Sik. They have been critical of the ruling party and of an Islamic organization that supports the party; they have not supported the Islamic organization.


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