British Prime Minister Theresa May started a one-day visit to Turkey on Saturday focusing on trade and security issues despite a crackdown by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government on dissent following a failed coup on July 15 of last year.
A spokeswoman for the British Prime Minister’s Office said on Friday that May and Erdoğan are expected to announce that they have established a working group to discuss the possibilities of a new bilateral trade deal after Brexit.
“On the issues of freedom of the press and human rights, if they come up, she will state her view, which is unchanged. She has been clear about the importance of press freedom and human rights,” British The Guardian daily quoted the spokeswoman saying.
When asked whether May would criticize the crackdown, spokeswoman said: “We have already expressed our strong support for Turkey’s democracy and institutions following the coup – but we have also been clear that we urge Turkey to ensure that their response is proportionate, justified and in line with international human rights obligations.”
Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others and Erdoğan and the Turkish government immediately put the blame for the July 15 failed coup attempt on the faith-based Gülen movement
Strongly denying having any role in the putsch, Fethullah Gülen, whose views inspired the Gülen movement, called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
More than 135,000 people have been purged from state bodies, in excess of 90,000 detained and over 43,000 have been arrested since the coup attempt. Arrestees include journalists, judges, prosecutors, police and military officers, academics, governors and even a comedian. Critics argue that lists of Gülen sympathizers were drawn up prior to the coup attempt.