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Turkish Police Break Up Rally After “Cumhuriyet” Arrests

In addition to journalists, more than 110,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants have been detained or suspended in the post-coup crackdown
Riot police use water cannons to disperse protesters during a protest against the arrest of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party lawmakers, in Istanbul, Turkey, on Nov. 5.Riot police use water cannons to disperse protesters during a protest against the arrest of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party lawmakers, in Istanbul, Turkey, on Nov. 5.

Some 1,000 protesters in the center of Istanbul were confronted by tear gas and water cannon on Saturday, as they tried to reach the offices of the “Cumhuriyet” newspaper, nine of whose journalists and executives have now been put under formal arrest after their detention on Monday.

The protest in the Istanbul district of Sisli came as Ankara continues its draconian crackdown following a July coup attempt that the Turkish government has blamed on US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, DW reported.

The state authorities have been targeting not only alleged Gulen supporters, but also pro-Kurdish officials in their campaign, which the government says is aimed at stamping out terrorism.

On Friday, nine members of parliament from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party were arrested on a variety of terrorism-related charges.

Prosecutors said staff at “Cumhuriyet”, one of the few newspapers still critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, were under suspicion both of crimes committed on behalf of Kurdish militants and of support for Gulen.

Turkey’s journalists’ association says some 170 newspapers, magazines, TV stations and news agencies have been closed since July, with critics of the Turkish president describing the crackdown as an attempt to quash all legitimate opposition.

  International Concern

The head of the main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, voiced his anger at the government’s recent actions.

“The international community is outraged. What are you trying to do? Are you trying to create a Turkey where everyone is in jail?” Kemal Kilicdaroglu said.

“What has the ‘Cumhuriyet’ newspaper done? Have they planted bombs somewhere?”

The crackdown has drawn a wave of criticism from outside Turkey as well.

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas described Ankara’s treatment of the media as “completely unacceptable” in comments made to the “Donaukurier” newspaper. He said Turkey was blatantly ignoring the core values of the European Union, despite its avowed desire to join the bloc.

Federica Mogherini, the EU’s top diplomat, said she was “extremely worried” by the HDP arrests, while the United States has expressed “deep concern” at the limits on freedom of expression.

In addition to journalists, more than 110,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants have been detained or suspended in the post-coup crackdown.

  Relapse on Press Freedom

A European Commission report on Turkey’s progress toward European Union membership cites problems with press freedoms and independence of the judiciary, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung said on Sunday.

The German newspaper said that the report, to be published on Wednesday, described “a significant relapse” in press freedom and said legal decisions over national security and the fight against terrorism were applied “selectively and randomly”.

It also cited significant concerns about the many Turkish journalists who have been arrested and media outlets that have been shut down since the failed July 15 coup, the newspaper said, citing a copy of the report.

The European Commission report also says there has been a relapse in the independence of the judiciary, noting that one-fifth of judges and prosecutors had been dismissed after the attempted putsch, the paper said.

It said some of those arrested had been held for up to 30 days before being brought before a judge during the state of emergency imposed after the failed coup.

The report also raises “very serious questions” about the Turkish government’s collective actions against people suspected of ties to Gulen.

It said vague criteria raised the appearance that people were being arrested due to mere “association” with Gulen rather any specific individual actions.

 

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