DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 44
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 16, 2016
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
Briefer: Mark Toner, Deputy Spokesperson
My Qs & As with US Spox
QUESTION: Mark, there was a letter signed in Turkey by academicians about two months ago, and you talk about it then here.
MR TONER: Yeah, I remember.
QUESTION: And now today or yesterday, three of those academics got arrested for signing this petition, but it looks like numbers shows about thousand academics, 1,100 of them signed the letter and about hundreds – 471 of them under investigation; 156 of them under legal investigation. There are terminations, suspensions, resignations. So there is a clearly witch hunt against them just because they signed this petition. I wanted to ask if you have any comment on this.
MR TONER: Well, I would just – sure. I just would say we see these actions as part of a troubling trend in Turkey whereby official bodies, law enforcement and judicial authorities, are being used to discourage legitimate political discourse. And in any democratic society, when critical opinions should be encouraged – or, rather, critical opinions should be encouraged and definitely not silenced. So we would just urge the Turkish authorities to ensure their actions, as we’ve said many times of late, uphold universal democratic values and are in our – that are enshrined, rather, in Turkey’s constitution.
Same Talking Points on Turkey for months..
QUESTION: So this talking point has been the same talking points over two months. I don’t think there is a single new word in this. And while hundreds of academics --
MR TONER: Being rather harsh. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I am pretty sure. And hundreds of hundreds of academics are getting arrested, and Mr. Erdogan just today said basically that columnists, or journalists, or anyone should be also tried under the terrorism charges for their writings and all that. Clearly, he advocates for new terror legislation, which he can easily do, his government, probably within next few days.
And finally, today, there’s a Chris Stevenson – he is a British academic who also – about to deported because couple of Nowruz invitations --
MR TONER: I’m not aware of that, but --
US Spox Mark Toner: I don't know what to add..
QUESTION: -- found in his bag.
MR TONER: Look, I’m not aware of that latest report, but I don't know what to add other than to say we have concerns about this climate, if you will, whereby legitimate, critical voices, editors, academics, what have you, are being discouraged from engaging in public discourse. It’s troubling. We raise it with Turkey.
QUESTION: Mr. Erdogan’s coming to Washington, D.C. He’s planned, scheduled to come in two weeks.
MR TONER: That’s right, for the – yeah.
QUESTION: I think there is no meeting scheduled yet, but do you think that these issues should be raised with him when he’s in – he will be in town?
No confirmation yet for Erdogan's Washington visit
MR TONER: Well, again, without even confirmation that he’s actually coming, and certainly recognizing that he’d be meeting at the White House and meeting with the President, I don’t want to speak to what the agenda might be, except to say that we talk about a wide range of issues with Turkey, and we don’t shy away from discussing human rights, certainly with our close partners and allies.
QUESTION: Are you sure he’d get a meeting at the White House if he did come?
MR TONER: I’m not sure. I really don’t want to speak to – I just don’t have clarity on that.
In the back, sir.