PM accuses German president of still behaving as pastor, not statesman

ANKARA (CIHAN)- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan harshly criticized German President Joachim Gauck, saying that he is still behaving as a pastor and he needs to act as a statesman.

Speaking at his party’s parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday, ErdoIan argued that he had a two-hour meeting with Gauck and he explained all the developments in Turkey and added that the German President intervened into Turkey’s internal affairs during his “weird” talk at the Middle East Technical University (ODTu) on Monday.

German president has said in Ankara he is “horrified” over negative developments in Turkey, criticizing the government for censoring Internet, controlling judiciary and granting wide powers to the spy agency.

ErdoIan said he told Gauck that he would not tolerate others interfering into Turkey’s internal affairs.

“What he said [during his ODTu] talk? ‘Don’t take this as interfering into your internal affairs, but’ We suffered a lot from these ‘but’s. We have no time to spend with these things. Thus, [he] needs to do what a statesmanship requires. He must be still be feeling like a pastor because he was a pastor at the time. He is looking from that angle. These are ugly things,” ErdoIan said.

“Don’t get my statements as an interference into your domestic affairs,” German President Joachim Gauck told a group of students at the ODTu. “I should confess developments in Turkey horrify me.” He said his remarks are aimed at sharing his concerns as a citizen of a democratic nation.

Gauck said he lived in a communist regime for fifty years, in which the ruling party decided what is legal and what is not. To avoid this, he said, the separation of powers is significant.

Gauck, who is on a four-day-long official visit to Turkey, arrived in the country late on Saturday accompanied by his wife, Daniela Schadt, and Integration Minister Aydan ÖzoIuz, the first politician of Turkish origin to hold a top post in Germany.

Gauck’s remarks came at a time when the government put judiciary under its control with a recent bill on the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). The German president said the removal of a number of police and prosecutors from their posts by the government will block to illuminate shady developments. “I’m asking: If the government tries to manipulate the court decisions in its favor or escape from decisions against itself, can we talk about independence of judiciary?”

Gauck also mentioned positive developments in Turkey, which includes the taming military power in politics. He recalled that a dialogue has been started with Kurds and that the conflicts decreased. He added that historic taboos about what has been done to Armenians and Kurds started to break up.

Gauck criticized granting wide powers to the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and slammed the authorities for using excessive force to disperse protesters from the streets.

He said he is concerned over the freedom of press, reminding that Internet is being censored while journalists are jailed or intimidated. He stated that informing people and being informed by developments are two fundamental conditions of a healthy democracy.

Earlier on Monday, during a press conference with his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, Gauck called on the Turkish government to be responsive to criticism and said he does not understand why the government has been antagonizing the media and judiciary.

“This [Turkish] government won the elections. Why would such a strong government [need to] take such measures against judiciary and react to the media?” said Gauck at a joint press conference with President Abdullah Gul.

He added that the government should not feel uneasy with criticism and asked Gul whether Twitter and YouTube had to be banned and why Constitutional Court President HaIim KIlIç recently delivered a harsh speech. “Is this approach supposed to strengthen the democracy?” said the German president.

During the meeting, the presidents touched upon the issue of minorities in Turkey. “A democratic society should be able to question its history. Germany also expresses its guilt and shame [regarding its national history], which is not a weakness,” said Gauck.

In remarks regarding Turkey’s European Union membership, Gauck said, “We are in a process that started a long time ago. There are some chapters that are open and some that are not. There is no questioning whether Turkey will become an EU member. Democracy is a state of constant and systematic dialogue [between sides].”