Turkish PM Erdogan not listening to critics
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan rallied hundreds of thousands of supporters today, dismissing accusations of intolerance by Western and domestic critics. "I don't care who it is. I'm not listening," he said to cheers.
Erdogan, tackling a corruption scandal that could damage his AK Party at local polls next Sunday, used a speech in the western city of Izmit also to announce Turkish forces had shot down a Syrian fighter that had crossed into Turkish air space.
Supporters waved red Turkish flags and blue and gold emblems of the AK Party he founded in 2001 and led to power a year later vowing to root out the corruption that had dogged rivals.
Western nations and rights groups have accused Turkey of intolerance for closing down the Twitter networking site over anonymously posted audio tapes that implicate Erdogan in graft. Erdogan says tapes of phone conversations had been manipulated as part of a smear campaign.
"The usual media are attacking us. What do they call it? 'Intolerance of freedoms'," he said. "I don't care who it is, I'm not listening. Even if the world stands up against us, I am obliged to take measure against every attack that threatens my nation's security.
"This entity called Twitter, this YouTube, this Facebook, they have shaken families to their roots...I don't understand how people of good sense could defend this Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. There are all kinds of lies there."
Erdogan accuses Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally who helped him drive reforms including the taming of the armed forces, of leading a campaign to blacken his name and topple him. At a campaign speech yesterday he described Gulen's network, which has influence in the police and judiciary, as a terrorist organisation.
The dramatic power struggle that has broken out between Erdogan and Gulen has undermined Western perceptions of NATO member Turkey as an exemplary Muslim democracy and a possible anchor of stability in the Middle East.