Turkish Foreign Ministry rejects US criticism of protest crackdown

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Turkey on Thursday rejected US criticism of mass detentions of students during a month of escalating protests, telling Washington not to interfere in its internal affairs, Agence France-Presse reported.

Hundreds of students and their supporters were detained this week after police violently cracked down on protests against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s appointment last month of a loyalist as rector of İstanbul’s elite Boğaziçi University.

Erdoğan on Wednesday condemned the LGBT movement’s role in the rallies and likened some student protesters to “terrorists.”

The US State Department called Erdoğan’s “rhetoric” unacceptable, urging Turkey to embrace protests and “even speech that some may find uncomfortable”.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry responded on Thursday, saying it would “advise those who dare to teach a lesson of democracy and law… to look in the mirror.”

“No one should dare to interfere in Turkey’s domestic affairs,” it said in a statement.

But the statement responded only to Washington’s criticism of the detentions, without referring to Erdoğan’s comments about the LGBT movement.

Erdoğan on Wednesday said there was “no such thing” as LGBT, adding: “This country is … moral, and it will walk to the future with these values.”

The State Department said it “strongly [condemns] the anti-LGBTQIA rhetoric surrounding the demonstrations.”

The diplomatic row threatens to undermine Erdoğan’s efforts to build rapport with the new administration of US President Joe Biden after enjoying a personal friendship with Donald Trump.

Biden is expected to take a tougher line on Erdoğan, pressing him on human rights.

Turkish interior ministry spokesman İsmail Çataklı said on Thursday that 528 people had been detained in connection with the protests this week.

Two were remanded in custody and 498 were released, including 108 who were freed under judicial supervision, Catakli said, while the fate of the other 28 remained unclear.

The İstanbul Governor’s Office earlier said police were searching for eight more suspects, of whom it said five had been caught.

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