Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to launch a lawsuit against the British newspaper London Times for publishing an open letter criticizing the excessive use of police force against anti-government protesters, reported PressTV.
Erdogan made the remarks on Friday in comments broadcast by Turkey’s NTV television channel.
A group of celebrities and academics, including U.S. film stars Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, and film director David Lynch, signed the open letter published in the Times this past week.
The signatories accused the Turkish government of “dictatorial rule” and of causing the deaths of five protesters during a recent police crackdown on anti-government protesters.
Erdogan said in response, "The press wants to throw mud to see if it sticks. The Times is renting out its own pages for money. This is the Times' failing. We will pursue legal channels regarding the Times."
The Turkish Prime Minister also said those who signed the letter had "rented out their thoughts" and did not genuinely support democracy.
"If they truly believed in democracy, they couldn't have displayed such a lack of character to call the leader of a party that won 50% of the vote a dictator," he also said, according to PressTV.
The signatories also accused Erdogan of undermining the principles of a free press for imprisoning dozens of journalists in the past few years.
Turkey has been rocked by nationwide protests and strikes against the policies of the prime minister.
The unrest began on May 31 after police broke up a sit-in held at Istanbul's Taksim Square to protest against the demolition of nearby Gezi Park.
Erdogan has described the protesters as vandals, looters or terrorists, and claimed the demonstrations are part of a plot to topple his government.