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Turkey in a week, October 15th, 2018

U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson was released to his home country, who was under house arrest in Turkey’s İzmir province. Brunson case was one of the triggers for Turkey’s deepening currency crisis in August. After his release Turkish Lira saw values under 6 against dollar the highest value since mid-July. But Turkish Lira’s appreciation was limited to 1.3% as the economy’s external balance problems remained unresolved. Brunson case has been the major diplomatic issue between Turkey and USA since the time he was arrested on terrorsim charges in October 2016 during the purges after the attemted coup d’état in July 2016. Brunson case became particularly critical in late July and August when the reports suggested that Turkey and USA came to an aggreement about his release in return of the release of Ebru Özkan, a Turkish citizen who had been imprisoned in Israel. After Özkan’s release in mid-July, the tension started to build up between Turkey and US as US side suggested that Erdoğan did not keep his promise to release Brunson. Turkey kept denying any deal with the USA and insisted on the narrative that the case is “independent judiciary’s business”. The release of Brunson happenned after secret witnesses witdrew their statements against him. Wide usage of secret witnesses by presecutors has been one of the major issues creating inconfidence in the legal system as several journalists, academics, human rights defenders were put in jail with case files solely based on secret witnesses.

Despite Turkey’s denial regarding deal’s existence, Brunson’s release on October 12th was leaked to the press weeks ago when Erdoğan visited USA for UN summit. Erdoğan administration is in desperate attempt to present the whole situation as the administration had nothing to do with the whole process and Trump’s economic and diplomatic pressures had no impact the pastor’s release. However, Trump’s two tweets put Erdoğan in a diffucult position. Even though the narrative of “independent legal system” in the Turkish side, Trump thanked Erdoğan in his first tweet with a meaningful exclamation mark at the end: “Pastor Andrew Brunson, released by Turkey, will be with me in the Oval Office at 2:30 P.M. (this afternoon). It will be wonderful to see and meet him. He is a great Christian who has been through such a tough experience. I would like to thank President @RT_Erdogan for his help!”. The second tweet was no less blushing diplomatically than the first one putting Turkey in a diffucult position once again: “There was NO DEAL made with Turkey for the release and return of Pastor Andrew Brunson. I don’t make deals for hostages. There was, however, great appreciation on behalf of the United States, which will lead to good, perhaps great, relations between the United States & Turkey!”.

Ankara is debating the meaning of President Erdoğan’s statement of conducting a referendum for the EU membership. There are proponents as well as opponents of Erdoğan’s statement in the debates. As Hilal Köylü reports in halagazeteciyiz, President Erdoğan has surprised everybody by giving the sign of holding a referendum on the EU membership, while Ankara is putting back the relationships with the EU on right track. Now Ankara, proceeding with the aim of enlarging the convergence policy that has begun with the Netherlands and Germany to other European countries, bears the question that “How would the referendum be?” in her mind. Minister of foreign relationships, Yaşar Yakış thinks Erdoğan’s statements should be taken as a message to the EU that “After the EU decides about Turkey’s membership, we will be able to ask our people” since EU takes Turkey as granted and behaves as if membership issue is only up to the EU.

Another important news headline last week in Turkey was Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disapperance. There is a recording showing him entering the Saudi consulate in İstanbul but thereis no evidence indication he ever left the consulate. Pro-AKP mainstream newspaper Sabah reported that Turkish authorities have obtained audio and video recordings indicating that Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was interrogated, tortured and killed at the Saudi consulate where he was last seen. Saudi authorities denies any involvement in disappearance of journalist Khashoggi.

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