“I allow myself to comment about the critical issues of a society. I not only talk with the government, but also those who are governed. This is a normal thing among friends,” Gauck said late April 29, commenting on Erdoğan’s reaction that his remarks were not proper for a statesman but rather for “a priest.”
- Gauck, who was elected president following the resignation of Christian Wulff after a corruption scandal, was a former East German Lutheran pastor.
Erdoğan also accused him of “telling lies,” which the German president categorically rejected. “I did not invent anything. I even restrained myself,” he said.
During a joint press conference with his counterpart Abdullah Gül on April 28, Gauck touched many nerves in Ankara by voicing concerns about the government’s recent moves to block Twitter and intervene in the independence of the judiciary. He even went further at an address at the Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ), confessing to being “terrified” of the way Turkish authorities suppressed street demonstrations.
- Unsurprisingly, his words did not go unanswered by the pugnacious Turkish prime minister.
“One should do whatever being a statesman requires. I suppose he still deems himself a pastor because he was a pastor at the time and he is looking with that view. These are awful things,” Erdoğan told his party lawmakers on April 29.