Turk­ish court jails nine staff of op­po­si­tion daily Ar­rests add to grow­ing in­ter­na­tional alarm

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

An Is­tan­bul court yes­ter­day or­dered the im­pris­on­ment of nine staff from the op­po­si­tion Cumhuriyet news­pa­per, in an in­ten­si­fy­ing crack­down a day af­ter the lead­ers of the coun­try’s main pro-Kur­dish party were also jailed. The ar­rests added to grow­ing in­ter­na­tional alarm over the use of a state of emer­gency im­ple­mented in the wake of the failed July 15 coup against crit­ics of Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan.

The Cumhuriyet staff de­tained ear­lier this week, in­clud­ing some of the most prom­i­nent names in Turk­ish jour­nal­ism, will now be held be­hind bars ahead of a trial, a date for which had yet to be set. Nine MPs from the op­po­si­tion proKur­dish Peo­ple’s Demo­cratic Party (HDP), in­clud­ing its co-lead­ers Se­la­hat­tin Demir­tas and Fi­gen Yuk­sekdag, were also jailed ahead of trial by the courts Fri­day on ter­ror charges. At to­tal of 13 staff from Cumhuriyet (Re­pub­lic) had been de­tained in raids on Mon­day in a swoop that am­pli­fied con­cerns about press free­doms in Turkey.

Among the nine or­dered held ahead of trial were Cumhuriyet’s edi­tor-in-chief Mu­rat Sabuncu, cel­e­brated car­toon­ist Musa Kart and in­flu­en­tial anti-Er­do­gan colum­nist Kadri Gursel. How­ever, colum­nists Hik­met Cetinkaya and Ay­din En­gin were re­leased on ju­di­cial con­trol due to age and on the grounds of health, the re­ports said, while two other sus­pects from the ac­counts depart­ment were re­leased with­out charge. The sus­pects are charged with links to the Kur­dish mil­i­tant Kur­dis­tan Work­ers Party (PKK) and the move­ment of US-based preacher Fethul­lah Gulen, blamed for the failed coup bid. Gulen de­nies the ac­cu­sa­tions.

Cumhuriyet has for months been in the crosshairs of the Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties. Ear­lier this year for­mer edi­tor-in-chief Can Dun­dar was given a five years and 10 months jail sen­tence for re­veal­ing state se­crets in a front-page story. An ar­rest war­rant has also been is­sued for Dun­dar in the cur­rent case but he has quit Turkey for Ger­many. “Our ‘crime’ is our writ­ing, our head­lines, our news. We will write again.

We will write even more,” Dun­dar wrote on Twit­ter, Demir­tas and Yuk­sekdag, mean­while, spent a first night be­hind bars af­ter their ar­rest on Fri­day. Al­though their hear­ings took place in the south­east­ern city of Diyarbakir, both were flown to pris­ons in the west of Turkey well away from their strongholds in the east. Demir­tas is now in pri­son in Edirne province close to the Greek and Bul­gar­ian bor­ders while Yuk­sekdag was taken to Ko­caeli just east of Is­tan­bul, re­ports said.

Af­ter his ar­rest, Demir­tas said in a writ­ten state­ment read by his lawyer that he was the vic­tim of a “civil­ian coup by the gov­ern­ment and the palace”. Do­gan news agency showed dra­matic footage of Demir­tas ar­riv­ing in Edirne province on a he­li­copter which landed in the mid­dle of an ath­let­ics field be­fore he was taken to pri­son in a multi-ve­hi­cle con­voy.

Their ar­rest along with those of the seven other HDP MPs, on var­i­ous charges of mem­ber­ship of the PKK and mak­ing “ter­ror pro­pa­ganda” for the group, sparked im­me­di­ate alarm among Turkey’s Western al­lies. EU for­eign pol­icy chief Fed­er­ica Mogherini said she was “ex­tremely wor­ried” over the de­ten­tions while US State Depart­ment spokesman John Kirby said there was a “wor­ri­some trend” of lim­it­ing free­dom of ex­pres­sion in Turkey. — AFP

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