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MHP leader Bahçeli defends government crackdown on Cumhuriyet daily

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Leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahçeli has expressed his support for an operation targeting the Cumhuriyet daily, which resulted in the detention of 12 journalists from the newspaper on Monday, accusing the daily of inflicting the greatest damage on the Turkish Republic.

“It will not look credible for those who have the name of the republic but who have inflicted the greatest damage on it and inspired and pleased anti-Turkey formations to seek shelter in freedom of the press [in the wake of the operation]. Freedom does not mean cursing the nation,” said Bahçeli, speaking at his party’s parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday.

The name of the Cumhuriyet daily means “republic.” Cumhuriyet is one of the oldest newspapers in Turkey and is a secular newspaper with a critical stance.

The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Monday issued detention warrants for 18 journalists from the daily over charges of aiding the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and “FETÖ.” Twelve journalists including the daily’s editor-in-chief, Murat Sabuncu, have been detained so far.

“FETÖ” is a derogatory term and acronym for the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization, coined by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to refer to the Gülen movement, which Erdoğan and the AKP accuse of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15. The movement strongly denies having any role in the coup attempt.

In his speech, Bahçeli also questioned the fact that while operations continue to eliminate “FETÖ” and PKK sympathizers, why some people are disturbed by an operation targeting the media leg of these organizations.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Despite Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, whose views inspired the movement, and the movement having denied the accusation, Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government launched a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

About 120,000 people have been purged from state bodies, in excess of 80,000 detained and over 36,000 have been arrested since the coup attempt. Arrestees include journalists, judges, prosecutors, police and military officers, academics, governors and even a comedian. Critics argue that lists of Gülen sympathizers were drawn up prior to the coup attempt.

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