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Kafka in Turkey: Will Tariq Ali and Onur Erem be Prosecuted for Calling Erdogan a “Tinpot Dictator”?

Tariq, I wanted to inform you that the interview we made with you after the Ankara massacre is under prosecution here in Turkey. The prosecutors office started an investigation claiming that “tin-pot dictator” is an insult against President Erdogan. They’re calling me for my defense within seven days. For now only I am under investigation but in the future they may start an investigation against you, as well.

From my experience, I can tell that the prosecutor is likely to open a court case after the investigation, because I have another court case for “insulting the president” pending. That case was because I reported on the results of Google Autocomplete, which brings Erdogan and AKP when you start typing “hırsız katil” (which means “thief and liar”). For that case, the prosecutor wants 4 years and 8 months of prison time. For our interview, it will be most likely the same.

For publicizing the prosecution and getting support in my case, I’d like to ask you a few more questions .–Onur Erem

Onur Erem: Have you ever been under prosecution or trial because of what you’ve written or said?

Tariq Ali: No.

Onur Erem: During interviews with foreign press, Erdogan dismisses the criticisms and tells that he’s not a dictator. Most recently when a Finnish journalist asked him “Some people call you a dictator, what do you think about these criticisms” he replied: “If I was a dictator, you couldn’t ask me this question” Now there’s a prosecution because you said “he began acting like a tin-pot dictator”. What do you think about this prosecution? What are your opinions on the debate about if he’s a dictator or not?

Tariq Ali: Perhaps he was upset that I called him a “tinpot” dictator which implies that he’s an ineffective dictator. As for his reply to the Finnish journalist it simply reveals his ignorance. In the recent past many dictators have answered even tougher questions.

Onur Erem: President Erdogan and Prime Minister Davutoglu often claims that the press is completely free in Turkey. What do you think about this joke? For example, what would happen to you if you called David Cameron a dictator in UK?

Tariq Ali: They are humorists wanting to elicit a cheap laugh. Nothing would happen to me if I called Cameron a dictator, except my friends would wonder whether if I was losing my mind.

Onur Erem: Do you have any message to the prosecutor?

Tariq Ali: Yes. Please forgive me for using the word ‘tinpot’. In fact, Erdogan is an elected dictator whose war frenzy at home and abroad has deestabilised Turkey and created fear, which helped him win the elections.

Onur Erem: If the prosecutor opens a court case, would you come to testify in the court?

Tariq Ali: ‪Er, could we do it on Skype?

Onur Erem writes for BirGun newspaper.

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Tariq Ali is the author of The Obama Syndrome (Verso).

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