Harf called this suggestion “ridiculous” and said: “Regardless of whether this gentleman [Gülen] was living in Pennsylvania or not, it would still not be okay for the government of Turkey to ban Twitter. It would still not be okay for the government of Turkey to crack down like they have on dissent. Those things have nothing to do with the fact that one of their citizens is living in the Pennsylvania countryside.”
“Aren’t you more in position with, for example, Fethullah Gülen?” asked the same journalist and Harf simply answered, “No.”
“Turkey’s a NATO ally. Let’s be clear here. Turkey is a close NATO ally. We don’t always agree on everything, but we don’t agree on everything with anyone,” continued Harf.
“So forget about the gentleman living in Pennsylvania. We have a bilateral alliance with the government of Turkey. We will speak out when we disagree. We will speak out when we agree. And it’s really up to the people of Turkey to make decisions about their government. We — It’s not up to us. Any reports that we have any impact on that are just crazy,” she added.
Answering a question about whether US President Barack Obama will congratulate Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on his party’s success in the municipal elections, Harf stated she has no predictions about what anyone else might say, adding that she just knows what she’s saying.
Election results in Turkey
Harf said the US is following the local elections in Turkey, noting that final results have not yet been released.
“Obviously, we would congratulate the people of Turkey for their participation in these elections. And I am not going to comment further on the results of local elections or do any further analysis, particularly before they haven’t been officially confirmed by the higher elections council,” stressed Harf.
After the eruption of a sweeping corruption and bribery scandal on Dec. 17 of last year, implicating members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), including Erdoğan and his ministers, Erdoğan sought to discredit the investigation by calling it a “foreign plot” and an “attempt to damage the government made by a parallel state nested within the state.” Erdoğan accused Gülen of being in control of this parallel state. The prime minister immediately ordered the removal and reassignment of thousands of police officers as well as hundreds of prosecutors and judges who contributed to the investigation. In addition, Parliament adopted a bill to restructure the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), which many said was aimed at strengthening the government’s control over the judiciary.
This was followed by a controversial law on regulating Internet news portals and websites, which was adopted by Parliament and approved by President Abdullah Gül despite public outcry. The law further increased people’s concerns about Internet freedom and people’s right to access information.
Gülen is in self-imposed exile in the US though there is no legal hurdle that prevents him from returning to Turkey. Shortly after he went to the US in 1999, he was charged with establishing an illegal organization in Turkey, but was acquitted in 2006 and that decision was upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals in 2008.
Twitter was blocked in Turkey on March 20 hours after Erdoğan vowed to “root it out,” stirring harsh reactions across the country and around the world and putting the ruling party’s reputation in jeopardy ahead of the local elections.