Turkey bans access to dozens of news articles, including 2013 graft probe stories

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Staff members of Zaman newspaper hold placards reading "Free press can not be silenced" during a protest against a raid by counter-terror police in Istanbul on December 14, 2014. Turkish police launched a sweeping operation to arrest supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's rival, US-exiled imam Fethullah Gülen, including a raid on the offices of the Zaman daily. A huge crowd gathered outside the offices of Zaman on the outskirts of İstanbul, creating a small stampede and forcing the police to leave the building without detaining any newspaper employees.

Turkish courts in different provinces blocked access to dozens of news articles that appeared on the websites of Turkish news outlets on various dates, including stories about a 2013 graft scandal that implicated the inner circles of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

According to the www.engelliweb.com website, which provides a list of articles and websites blocked by Turkish courts, access to more than 50 articles on Turkish websites were banned in the space of two weeks by Turkish courts.

The website also show that İstabul’s 5th and 6th Penal Courts of Peace blocked access to 10 articles on the T24, Diken, Bianet and Odatv websites on Nov. 7 about a corruption scandal in December 2013, including allegedly leaked audio recordings of telephone conversations between Erdoğan and his son.

Since a corruption investigation erupted on Dec. 17, 2013 that led to the resignation of four Cabinet ministers, Erdoğan has launched a witch hunt targeting sympathizers of the Gülen movement, inspired by US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, especially those in the state bureaucracy.

The investigations were pursued by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) after the AKP government transferred the police officers, prosecutors and judges overseeing the investigations.

Erdoğan’s crackdown expanded against people including shop owners, teachers, members of the judiciary, journalists and police officers who were allegedly affiliated with the Gülen movement as he accused the movement of masterminding both the graft probes in 2013 and a failed coup attempt on July 15 of this year.

Since then, more than 120,000 state employees have been sacked, in excess of 74,000 detained and some 34,000 arrested over links to the Gülen movement and coup plotters. Erdoğan openly said he would carry out a “witch hunt” against anyone with links to the movement. The Gülen movement strongly rejects the allegations leveled against it.

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