Thou­sands protest in Tur­key over ar­rests of two se­nior jour­nal­ists

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

IS­TAN­BUL: Sev­eral thou­sand peo­ple protested yes­ter­day at the ar­rest of two prom­i­nent jour­nal­ists on charges of es­pi­onage and ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda, a case that has re­vived long-stand­ing crit­i­cism of Tur­key’s record on press free­dom un­der Pres­i­dent Tayyip Er­do­gan.

On Thurs­day a court or­dered the ar­rest of Can Dun­dar, ed­i­tor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet news­pa­per, and se­nior ed­i­tor Er­dem Gul over the pub­li­ca­tion of footage pur­port­ing to show the state in­tel­li­gence agency help­ing send weapons to Syria.

The United States said it was “very con­cerned,” and op­po­si­tion politi­cians fiercely crit­i­cised the move.

“Jour­nal­ism is be­ing put on trial with th­ese ar­rests and the Turk­ish press is be­ing in­tim­i­dated,” Utku Cakirozer, an MP from the main op­po­si­tion Peo­ple’s Repub­li­can Party and Cumhuriyet’s for­mer top ed­i­tor.

Some 2 000 peo­ple gath­ered in Is­tan­bul and an­other 1 000 in Ankara, with some ac­cus­ing Er­do­gan of of col­lab­o­rat­ing with Is­lamic State.

Cumhuriyet is a sec­u­lar, left-wing news­pa­per.

The video footage, re­leased in May, pur­ported to show Turk­ish po­lice open­ing crates of weapons and am­mu­ni­tion bound for Syria on the back of trucks said to be­long to the MIT Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Pub­li­ca­tion of the story at the time prompted Er­do­gan to vow re­venge, say­ing those be­hind it en­dan­gered se­cu­rity and would “pay a heavy price”.

He sub­se­quently filed a crim­i­nal com­plaint against Dun­dar and Gul.

Dun­dar re­jected the charges in his de­fence on Thurs­day.

Euro­pean di­plo­mats are mea­sured in their crit­i­cism of me­dia free­dom in Tur­key and Er­do­gan’s in­creas­ingly au­thor­i­tar­ian rule, recog­nis­ing the West needs Ankara’s help on the mi­grant cri­sis and as an ally in the USled coali­tion against Is­lamic State.

Europe hopes to fi­nalise a deal with Ankara on the refugee cri­sis at a sum­mit this week­end. – Reuters

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