Gus Bilirakis is calling on Donald Trump to speak about the deteriorating state of human rights in Turkey, just before the president is scheduled to sit down with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House Tuesday.
“As it is a critical moment for Turkey and the U.S.-Turkish relationship, the United States must be candid and consistent in our support of democratic values and respect for human rights for the sake of Turkey’s future, as well as the long-term interests in the region of both the United States and our NATO allies,” writes the Tarpon Springs Republican congressman in a letter made available Tuesday afternoon. “We, therefore, urge you to make support for Turkish democracy a priority, both in your meetings with President Erdogan and in U.S. policy toward Turkey thereafter.”
Erdogan has been under fire for a contested referendum that vastly expanded his executive power, as well as his government’s crackdown on dissidents and civil society after an attempted coup last summer.
Trump is reportedly among the minority of world leaders who actually called and congratulated Erdogan on his recent victory in the referendum giving him sweeping constitutional powers and extending his potential political lifespan.
“Over the past several years, Erdogan and his allies have a continuous assault on the rule of law, particularly using the courts to stifle fundamental rights, including free speech, to quash any opposition to their undemocratic actions,” writes Bilirakis, a co-chair of the Hellenic Caucus.
As his staff indicates, Bilirakis has often spoken out against Turkish provocation and threats to the sovereignty of Greece.
Bilirakis represents Tarpon Springs in Congress. That city has the largest population of Greek-Americans of any city in Florida.