The powerful chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee criticized Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Tuesday for failing to condemn Turkey’s decision to sentence philanthropist Osman Kavala to life in prison, a verdict that is considered symbolic until Recep Tayyip Erdogan to suppress dissent.
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Kavala was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Monday for trying to overthrow the government by financing protests, in a case that the European Supreme Court and Western powers have described as politically motivated.
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The State Department issued a statement Monday saying it was “deeply concerned and disappointed” by the sentencing and called for Kavala to be released.
Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Democratic committee, said the statement was not good.
“That is why authoritarian figures like Erdogan are avoiding continuing to do what they are doing. We should have condemned the decision,” Menendez said, using his latest remarks at a State Budget hearing. Department to blast the statement.
As president, Menendez has the right to review arms deals, and Turkey is pressuring Congress not to block Ankara’s request to buy new F-16 fighter jets from the United States. Turkey requested last October to buy 40 Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing fighter jets. The sale of US weapons to Turkey was called into question after Ankara acquired the S-400s, prompting US sanctions and Turkey’s withdrawal from the F-35 fighter jet program. Menendez has long opposed the sale of F-16s to Turkey as long as Ankara kept the S-400s. Washington has not yet commented on the sale, saying it must go through the formal arms sales review process.
A State Department letter last month to a cross-party group of lawmakers specifically asking the Biden government not to sell F-16s contained language defending “appropriate” defense ties with Turkey.
“The government believes, however, that there are urgent long-term interests in the unity and capability of the NATO alliance, as well as US national security, financial and trade interests backed by appropriate US defense trade ties with Turkey,” the letter said.
But it did not provide assurances or a timeline for when the sale could or could not proceed.