Turkish FM bashes Kazakh journalist for question over abduction scandal in Switzerland

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Friday refused to answer two questions from a Kazakh journalist during a joint press conference in Astana, likening the journalist to a member of the Gülen movement.

“Is Turkey’s Olive Branch operation in Afrin a violation of Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty?” and “According to Swiss media reports, two Turkish diplomats planned to abduct a Turkish citizen using Nazi tactics. Swiss authorities have asked for the removal of the diplomatic immunity of the two Turkish diplomats. What do you think about these reports?” a Kazak journalist asked the Turkish minister during a press conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Kazakh capital of Astana on Friday.

“I see you asked a question like a FETÖ member, and I do not answer questions asked in a FETÖ style,” Çavuşoğlu said, adding that they had previously made statements concerning Afrin. “FETÖ” is a derogatory name used by the Turkish government led by autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the Gülen movement.

In January, Erdoğan lashed out at a French reporter who asked him about claims that Ankara sent arms to radical groups in Syria, during a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace in Paris, accusing him of speaking like a member of the faith-based Gülen movement.

“Those are the words of FETÖ. You should learn to not speak with the words of FETÖ,” Erdoğan told French investigative journalist Laurent Richard when he asked about Turkish intelligence service trucks carrying weapons to jihadist groups in Syria in late 2013.

“I am speaking as a journalist!” responded Richard.

“When you ask your questions, don’t speak with the words of another. And I want you to know, you don’t have someone in front of you who will easily swallow this,” added Erdoğan.

“Today I just tried to ask questions Turkish journalists can no longer ask to @RT_Erdogan . #pressfreedom” the French journalist tweeted following the press conference.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 248 journalists and media workers were in jail as of March 9, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 193 were under arrest pending trial while only 55 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 139 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.

Switzerland is investigating whether Turkish diplomats planned to drug and kidnap a Swiss-Turkish businessman as part of a crackdown after a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, federal prosecutors said, according to a Reuters report on Wednesday.

The Swiss Tages-Anzeiger daily said one of the two diplomats linked to the plot to snatch the Swiss-based businessman — who was active in the Gülen movement, which Ankara blames for the coup bid — remained at their job in Bern while the other had since returned to Turkey.

“The Office of the Attorney General can confirm that in this context a criminal case is being conducted on suspicion of political intelligence gathering … and prohibited acts for a foreign state,” the OAG said in an emailed statement. The investigation began in March 2017, it added.

The OAG said it had asked the foreign ministry to clarify whether the suspects enjoyed diplomatic immunity now or at the time of the alleged crime. Waiving any immunity was necessary to carry out further investigations, it added.

The Turkish Embassy in Bern did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment from Reuters.

The OAG said a year ago that it had begun a criminal inquiry into possible foreign spying on Switzerland’s Turkish community.

Swiss intelligence got wind of the 2016 kidnapping plot while it was being hatched, Tages-Anzeiger reported, adding that the intended victim remains under police protection. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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