Turkey Arrests 25 for Protest Tweets

A good way to show the world you're not the autocratic leader your opponents claim is to allow them to protest peacefully. A bad way is to arrest activists for tweeting. Guess which Turkish Prime Minister chose the bad way?

As the "Occupy Gezi" anti-government protests across Turkey entered their second week, Turkish police have arrested 25 people in the city of Izmir for tweeting "libelous information," Russia Today reports. As The Atlantic Wire says, it's unclear which tweets earned the activists their apprehensions, but the main opposition party CHP has accused the ruling party, AKP, of arresting them for "urging people to protest." (And anyway: "Tweeting libelous information" is just another way of saying "tweeting.")

Turkey has among the strictest speech laws of any industrialized democracy, and speech that insults "the Turkish nation," its founder Kemal Ataturk, or incites religious or racial hatred is severely curtailed. (Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was himself arrested in 1999, and forced to resign as Mayor of Istanbul, for reciting a poem that was found to be an incitement to religious hatred.) In 2011, laws that allowed the government sweeping control over Turkish citizens' internet access were installed.

The arrests follow an apology from Erdogan's deputy, Bulent Arinc, over the treatment of Occupy Gezi protestors last week. Erdogan has consistently blamed Twitter and social media for the protests, which grew out of an anti-development occupation and gained widespread international attention after brutal police action last Thursday.