Türköne among 12 journalists arrested in escalating media crackdown

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Mümtazer Türköne was arrested along with 11 more editors and columnists at the Zaman daily before it was forcefully seized by the government in March, due to allegedly being involved in the recent failed coup attempt, in the aftermath of which Turkish government’s crackdown on free media — among many other government bodies – has gained momentum.  

Twelve journalists out of 14, who were detained as part of an investigation into the Zaman daily, were arrested on Friday, while Osman Nuri Öztürk and Osman Nuri Arslan were released and placed under judicial supervision due to lack of solid evidence.

The İstanbul 3rd Penal Court of Peace ruled to arrest Alaattin Güner, Şeref Yılmaz, Ahmet Metin Sekizkardeş, Faruk Akkan, Mehmet Özdemir, Fevzi Yazıcı, Zafer Özsoy, Cuma Kaya and Hakan Taşdelen on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.”

Hüseyin Turan and Murat Avcıoğlu were arrested on the charge of “helping an organized criminal group despite not taking place within its hierarchic structure,”while columnist Türköne was arrested for “serving for purposes of a terrorist organization.”

Türköne was detained in Yalova last week, after police officers searched his house.

The journalists are accused of being linked the so-called Fetullahist Terrorist Organization [FETÖ], which is used by the government-backed judiciary to frame sympathizers of the Gülen movement.

Trustees took over the management of Feza Publishing, which includes the Zaman and Today’s Zaman dailies critical of the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, earlier in March. Selling 600,000 copies per day, Zaman was Turkey’s best-selling daily before trustees were appointed in a government-orchestrated move.

A group of rebel soldiers, acting out of chain of command, attempted a military coup at around 10 p.m. on July 15, which left more than 250 people – including civilians – dead.

The Turkish government managed to suppress the coup attempt and launched a large-scale crackdown across the country on media, public servants, judges, prosecutors and teachers, along with rebels within the army. The detentions, arrests and massive purges that followed the crackdown widened and increased after a state of emergency was declared on July 20, concentrating power formally into the hands of Erdoğan by allowing him and his cabinet to make laws by fiat.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accussed the Gülen movement of being behind the coup attempt and demanded extradition of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen from the US. Thousands of public servants, judges, prosecutors and journalists were detained by the Turkish police for allegedly having links to the Gülen movement.

Meanwhile, Gülen recently issued a statement condemning the failed military coup attempt in Turkey, calling the allegations of his involvement “demeaning.”

The Gülen movement is a grassroots social initiative inspired by Gülen and carries out charitable activities all around the world, including education, distributing humanitarian aid and providing drinking water especially in African countries.

The Gülen movement is not considered to have influence over the Turkish military, which is known for its Kemalist roots that is against the Gülen movement. The rebel military officials who attempted to stage a coup named themselves as “Council of Peace At Home,” in a declaration they forcibly had delivered via the state-run broadcaster TRT on Friday night. The name is a reference to “Peace at home, peace in the world,” which is a famous saying by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey.

Since a corruption investigation erupted on Dec. 17, 2013 and led to the resignation of four Cabinet ministers, Erdoğan has launched a witch hunt targeting shop owners, teachers, members of the judiciary, journalists and police officers who are accused of being affiliated with the Gülen movement, which is also known as the Hizmet movement. The graft probe implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, members of his family and senior Justice and Development Party (AK Party) figures.

Erdoğan accused the Gülen movement of plotting to overthrow his government and said that sympathizers of the movement within the police department had fabricated the corruption scandal. Since then, hundreds of police officers have been detained and some arrested for alleged illegal activity in the course of the corruption investigation. Erdoğan openly said he would carry out a “witch hunt” against anyone with links to the movement. The Gülen movement strongly rejects the allegations brought against it.

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