by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not Justin Trudeau or Angela Merkel, a leader firmly within the liberal West who annoys Trump. He’s an Islamist authoritarian who is fundamentally changing the character of an erstwhile ally.
Erdogan’s resort to hostage-taking as a tactic to gain leverage over allies — it’s not just us — is a barbarous throwback and a disgusting homage to rogue states such as Iran and North Korea. He also has grabbed a Turkish-American NASA scientist and local employees of American consulates.
The case against the pastor, the highest-profile case, is ludicrous. Andrew Brunson lived with his family in a seaside city, Izmir, for more than 20 years until the government, after Erdogan survived a coup, decided that he was guilty of aiding terrorist organizations and carrying out military espionage.
The alleged supporting evidence is a collection of absurdities that could have been assembled by the Turkish equivalent of Alex Jones — a video of a traditional Arab dish sent to Brunson by his daughter, a church member telling the pastor by text that he couldn’t make it to a service, a photo of him with a man in a scarf bearing certain colors, and so on, all of which supposedly implicates him in dire crimes against the Turkish state.
What this clearly is about is holding Brunson to try to get Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally and cleric who lives on a farm in Pennsylvania. With great fervency but little evidence, the Turkish government accuses Gulen of being behind the shadowy July 15, 2016, coup that became an occasion for Erdogan to seize emergency powers and purge the state and civil society of his political enemies.