Turkey ar­rests head of op­po­si­tion news­pa­per

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

IS­TAN­BUL: Turkey yes­ter­day de­tained the board chair­man of op­po­si­tion daily Cumhuriyet, ac­cord­ing to the pa­per, which has been the tar­get of an in­ten­si­fy­ing crack­down since July’s failed coup. Akin Ata­lay was taken into cus­tody at Is­tan­bul’s air­port af­ter ar­riv­ing from Ger­many, said Cumhuriyet, which also saw nine of its staff ar­rested last week amid swelling con­cern over media free­dom in Turkey.

The pa­per has in re­cent years taken a strong line against Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan’s rul­ing Islamic-rooted Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party (AKP). Ata­lay was tar­geted by a war­rant that was part of a probe into “ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­i­ties”, and ush­ered into a po­lice ve­hi­cle wait­ing for him on the tar­mac. Some 35,000 peo­ple have been ar­rested and tens of thou­sands more have lost their jobs - in­clud­ing mil­i­tary of­fi­cers, judges, teach­ers, civil ser­vants and jour­nal­ists - in a sweep­ing crack­down in the wake of the failed July bid to oust Er­do­gan. Since the coup at­tempt, over 100 jour­nal­ists have been ar­rested while 170 media or­gans in­clud­ing news­pa­pers and broad­cast­ers have been closed down, the Turkey Jour­nal­ists’ As­so­ci­a­tion has said on its web­site. Turkey was ranked 151st of 180 coun­tries in the 2016 World Press Free­dom in­dex pub­lished by Re­porters With­out Bor­ders (RSF). Speak­ing to AFP, RSF ed­i­tor-in-chief Vir­ginie Dan­gles de­scribed what she called “an un­prece­dented wave of ar­rests... un­der the guise of ab­surd ac­cu­sa­tions.”

She ap­pealed to the world com­mu­nity to “make the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment un­der­stand that this re­pres­sive re­sponse can­not go with­out con­se­quences”. Last week, nine MPs from the op­po­si­tion pro-Kur­dish Peo­ple’s Demo­cratic Party (HDP), in­clud­ing its co-lead­ers Se­la­hat­tin Demir­tas and Fi­gen Yuk­sekdag, were de­tained pend­ing a trial on ter­ror charges ex­pected to be­gin Fri­day.

‘Back­slid­ing’ on Fun­da­men­tal Rights

Cumhuriyet’s ex­iled for­mer ed­i­torin-chief, Can Dun­dar, fled to Ger­many ear­lier this year while ap­peal­ing against a prison term for re­veal­ing state se­crets. Dun­dar was given nearly six years be­hind bars for a story about a ship­ment of arms in­ter­cepted at the Syr­ian border, which had prompted a fu­ri­ous Er­do­gan to warn Dun­dar he would “pay a heavy price”. Er­do­gan’s op­po­nents and rights groups have ac­cused au­thor­i­ties of us­ing the state of emer­gency af­ter the failed putsch to sti­fle crit­ics. “Cumhuriyet is the voice and breath of Turkey,” said Huseyin Karab­u­lut, who was among sup­port­ers in front of the pa­per’s Is­tan­bul of­fices. He feared the pa­per could be taken over by au­thor­i­ties as the Za­man daily was in March. Among the nine to be held ahead of trial were Cumhuriyet’s ed­i­tor-in-chief Mu­rat Sabuncu, cel­e­brated car­toon­ist Musa Kart and in­flu­en­tial anti-Er­do­gan colum­nist Kadri Gursel.

MINSK, Be­larus: Turkey’s Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan (left) and Be­laru­sian Pres­i­dent Alexan­der Lukashenko shake hands dur­ing the in­au­gu­ra­tion cer­e­mony of a mosque yes­ter­day.

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