Nine journalists, staff members and executives from Turkish opposition daily newspaper Cumhuriyet were formally arrested pending trial, on extremism-related charges, in court Saturday, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Among those arraigned was Murat Sabuncu, the editor-in-chief, who was detained along with other staff members on Monday. The private Dogan news agency said cartoonist Musa Kart was also arrested.
The court ruling comes a day after nine members of parliament from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were arrested on a variety of terrorism-related charges, drawing stark condemnation from the European Union.
Turkey has also been throttling internet access, including to social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, while mobile internet access was also restricted at times. The United States has also voiced concern about the limits on freedom of expression.
Cumhuriyet – which has continued to publish this week despite the detentions – also confirmed the arrests of its staff and leadership and ran a headline on its website saying the measures “will go down as a disgrace in history.”
European leaders and human rights groups have been critical of Turkey’s moves against the paper. Amnesty International called it “the only remaining mainstream opposition newspaper” and decried “an ongoing systematic attempt to silence all critical voices.”
Turkey has shuttered some 165 media outlets since a failed coup attempt in July. There are more than 100 journalists in jail.
The crackdown since the coup has seen some 35,000 people arrested and tens of thousands of civil servants fired.
The government says it is targeting those affiliated with Fethullah Gulen, a US-based preacher Ankara blamed for the coup attempt. Gulen was a longtime ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan until the two fell out.
The Cumhuriyet executives and journalists are accused of aiding the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Gulenists, although not of being part of the networks, according to the prosecutor’s allegations.
Kurdish nationalists and the once-powerful Gulenists were at odds for years. Furthermore, the secular Cumhuriyet has a long history of being critical of both the PKK and the religious Gulenists, raising questions about the allegations.
European governments and the UN have been critical of Turkey’s vague anti-terrorism laws and their wide application.
The centre-left newspaper, founded in 1924, has staunchly denied the charges against it. It is sharply government critical.
The newspaper has been targeted by Erdogan repeatedly during the past year, especially since former editor-in-chief Can Dundar published an article revealing that the government was allegedly shipping weapons to Syrian rebels.
Dundar now lives in Germany in exile, after being sentenced along with another writer to five years in jail for their reporting. He is aiming to set up a new media outlet which will employ the many journalists who have lost their jobs recently as a result of the crackdowns.
By Shabtai Gold, original source