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Can Dundar: Decision time for Europe

Gezal Acer
November 1, 2016

Awards and messages of support are not enough: After a new crackdown on the Turkish opposition newspaper 'Cumhuriyet,' its former editor-in-chief Can Dundar talks about the choice faced by Germany and the EU​.

Buchmesse Frankfurt Can Dündar -  Raif Badawi Award 2016
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Prautsch

DW: You are currently living in exile in Germany after having been sentenced to five years in prison earlier this year. The current legal proceedings against you in Turkey have drawn international criticism. If Turkish authorities demand your extradition, what would be the course of this trial?

Can Dundar: Germany will have a decision to make: It is a choice between being on the side of democracy or oppression. We will see. Europe is also confronted with this choice: Does it want to see Turkey as an oppressive regime or as a democratic and secular free country? I think this will be a litmus test for both Germany and Europe.

According to the Istanbul prosecutor's office, 'Cumhuriyet' staff members were detained on suspicion of committing crimes on behalf of the network of the US-based Islamic cleric Fetullah Gulen, whom Turkey's government accused of orchestrating a failed coup attempt in July. What do you make of this argument for the journalists' detention?

It's ridiculous. It would have been better if they said, "We don't want to hear any dissenting voices and are not ready to tolerate even the slightest opposition." 'Cumhuriyet' has been fighting against the Gulen Movement for the last 20 to 30 years, so you can't convince anyone by accusing this newspaper of "Gulenism."

You were awarded several prizes in Europe and met European politicians. Does Europe offer you the support you hope for? What should be done?

Of course, awards are very important and they represent a message of solidarity. But this is not enough. Looking at recent figures regarding arms deals between Turkey and Germany in 2015, the thought strikes me whether economic interests might be behind Germany's support for Turkey. Or has the EU's refugee deal with Turkey led Europe to turn a blind eye to democracy? I think all these are existential decisions - not only for Germany but for all of Europe.