George Soros, billionaire and founder of Soros Fund Management. Picture: BLOOMBERG
George Soros, billionaire and founder of Soros Fund Management. Picture: BLOOMBERG

Ankara — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan joined a growing nationalist vilification of George Soros on Wednesday, accusing the billionaire philanthropist of supporting anti-government protests to divide Turkey and other countries around the world.

Referring disparagingly to the Hungarian-born US investor as the “famous Hungarian Jew Soros”, Erdogan accused him of backing the so-called Gezi Park rallies of 2013. The protests swelled from a demonstration against plans to raze a park in central Istanbul to the biggest political challenge that then-prime minister Erdogan had faced against his rule.

The president said Soros had been aided by “local collaborator” Osman Kavala, who he said has been in jail for more than a year for funding the rallies with the aim of sowing divisions among Turks.

The remarks show Erdogan probably supports the detention last week of more than a dozen people linked to Kavala, including professors from some of Turkey’s most prominent universities and a journalist. The academics are accused of trying to undermine Erdogan’s government through the Gezi protests.

Soros has been attacked by nationalist politicians and commentators from the US to Italy to his native Hungary over his support for liberal causes, with many of the barbs widely seen as anti-Semitic. He was recently one of more than a dozen recipients of mail bombs allegedly sent by a supporter of US President Donald Trump.

Kavala is well known by EU officials, who held regular consultations with him and his arts and culture foundation, called Anadolu Kültür. The prosecutor in Kavala’s case has yet to produce an indictment and Kavala is seeking recourse at the European Court of Human Rights.