Turkey tells US envoy to stop meddling in its affairs

ANKARA (AFP) - Turkey bluntly told the United States ambassador on Thursday to stop meddling in its domestic affairs after he criticised the country's justice system, particularly the jailing of politicians and military chiefs.

"Ambassadors should mind their own business. They should stay away from assessments that mean interference in Turkey's judiciary and domestic affairs," Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.

In an interview with Turkish media on Tuesday, US ambassador Francis Ricciardone criticised "the flaws in the justice system, among them being lengthy pre-trial detentions, lack of clarity in presenting charges, lack of transparency."

He highlighted the jailing of over 300 Turkish military officers, a move seen as part of a campaign by the Islamist-rooted government to clip the wings of the once-powerful military, as well as the detention of politicians and other government opponents.

"You have your military leaders, who were entrusted with the protection of this country, behind bars as if they were terrorists," Mr Ricciardone said.

"You have members of parliament who have been behind bars for a long time, sometimes on unclear charges," he added.

"You have professors... You have non-violent student protesters protesting tuition hikes behind bars. When a legal system produces such results and confuses people like that for terrorists, it makes it hard for American and European courts to match up."

The ambassador's comments came after a suicide bombing outside the US embassy in Ankara last Friday that was claimed by a radical anti-US leftwing group.

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