Aide says Erdoğan wasn’t targeting Nobel laureate Pamuk with ‘terrorist’ remark

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Fahrettin Altun, the head of Turkey’s Presidential Communications Directorate, has said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was not referring to Nobel Prize winning Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk when he said the Nobel committee had given the prize to a terrorist in Turkey.

Answering questions during a panel discussion at Ankara’s Bilkent University on Tuesday, Erdoğan was asked if the Nobel committee were to award him a prize would he accept it.

I wouldn’t,” Erdoğan replied, saying that the Nobel committee made a fatal mistake by selecting Peter Handke, an Austrian author who drew heavy criticism over his remarks denying atrocities committed by Serbian troops against the Bosnian people in the 1990s.

“They also have given [a prize] to a terrorist in Turkey,” he added.

Turkey has only two Nobel laureates, one Pamuk, a world-famous novelist, in 2006, the other Aziz Sancar, a Turkish-American biochemist and molecular biologist, in 2015.

Erdoğan’s remarks came as a shock to many as he was among the first people to call Pamuk to congratulate him when he won the Nobel Prize.

In a series of tweets on Tuesday evening, Altun said Erdoğan’s remarks in no way were aimed at Pamuk but that the president’s criticism was directed at those who were nominated for the Nobel Prize although they are engaged in acts of terrorism and enemies of Turkey.

In the meantime, Kemal Özkiraz, a strategist and the head of the Eurasia Research polling company, claimed on Twitter on Tuesday that Erdoğan mixed up exiled journalist Can Dündar with Pamuk when making the terrorist remark.

Dündar and a colleague were sentenced in 2016 to five years in prison for publishing a video purporting to show Turkey’s intelligence agency trucking weapons into Syria. They were released pending appeal, and Dündar left the country. Erdoğan requested Dündar’s extradition to Turkey from Germany during a visit to this country last year.

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