When I first appeared in court after last month’s raid on my newspaper in Istanbul and 80 hours of detention, I asked the judge: “Two columns and a news report: Is that all the evidence against me?” The judge replied, “Yes.” It surely was an “I rest my case” moment for me — as well as for the dismal state of Turkish democracy under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey’s leader for almost 12 years, Erdogan contributed to economic successes and democratic reforms during his first and second terms. However, emboldened by consecutive election victories and incompetent opposition parties, he is now leading Turkey toward one-man, one-party rule.
The two critical turning points came in 2013: his government’s harsh treatment of protesters in Gezi Park and the systematic obstruction of justice after a major corruption scandal. Since then, Erdogan has branded dissenters and critics as traitors who are part of a vast international conspiracy to topple him. Just last week, a 16-year-old was arrested for pointing out corruption. On Tuesday, two journalists critical of the government, Sedef Kabas and Mehmet Baransu, were detained over tweets. My newspaper, Zaman, and I are just the latest victims of Erdogan’s witch hunt.