The Turkish police detained at least 24 police officers, journalists and media workers in raids on Sunday morning, days after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signaled a new campaign against supporters of an influential Muslim cleric whom he has accused of attempting to overthrow his government.
Eight other people were on a list of suspects accused of “using pressure, intimidation, threats,” a “smear campaign” and “fabrication of evidence” to claim the power of state as members of an illegal organization, the semiofficial press agency Anadolu reported. Mr. Erdogan has said that the organization’s members are part of a parallel structure within the state that is intended by the cleric, Fethullah Gulen, to oust him from power.
Some members of the news media were also charged with “fabricating charges and evidence” in their productions to support a 2009 investigation, eventually dropped by prosecutors, that accused a group of people of being radical Islamists, the report said.
Mr. Gulen lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania and is believed to have many followers and sympathizers in important positions in the Turkish police and judiciary.
On Sunday, the producer and director of a television show were detained in Eskisehir, in northwestern Turkey, and the scriptwriter of another series was taken into custody in Van, an eastern province, according to Anadolu. All three work for Samanyolu Broadcasting Group, which is affiliated with Mr. Gulen.
In Istanbul, security officials went to the headquarters of Zaman, a pro-Gulen newspaper, to try to arrest the editor in chief. They left after lawyers for the newspaper pointed out missing signatures on the warrant, then returned later to make the arrest.
Television reports showed dozens of newspaper workers holding banners in support of press freedom and chanting, “Free press cannot be silenced,” as the police initially entered the packed building.
Hidayet Karaca, the president of Samanyolu, was summoned to the Istanbul Police Headquarters to answer allegations that the media organization and Mr. Gulen had tried to topple Mr. Erdogan’s pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party. Mr. Karaca was later detained.
“Here’s the attitude toward an international media group with dozens of television stations, dozens of publications, dozens of radio stations not only at home, but also abroad,” Mr. Karaca said in a live broadcast as he left his home for the Police Headquarters. “This is a shameful scene, now marked in our country’s history.”
Mr. Erdogan, in a televised speech on Friday, vowed to pursue members of the so-called parallel structure, which he said had challenged his rule with a corruption inquiry last year, as well as at other times. “We have gone into their lairs, and we will go into them again,” he said. “Whoever is beside them and behind them, we will bring down this network and bring it to account.”
The corruption investigation implicated many of those close to Mr. Erdogan, then the prime minister. The inquiry led to resignations of three ministers and was regarded as the biggest threat to the rule of Mr. Erdogan after more than a decade in power. Mr. Gulen, who was a close ally of Mr. Erdogan for years before a falling out, denied having any role in the investigation.
After the investigation, thousands of police officers and prosecutors were removed from their positions in what was seen by many as an attempt by Mr. Erdogan to eliminate Mr. Gulen’s influence in the state structure. Senior judicial bodies were also restructured in a manner that, critics say, paved the way for corruption charges to be dropped in September against 96 suspects, who were Erdogan supporters.Reuters reports:
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday defended weekend raids on media outlets close to a U.S.-based Muslim cleric as a necessary response to "dirty operations" by the government's political enemies, and told a critical European Union to mind its own business.
Sunday's raids on the Zaman daily and Samanyolu television marked an escalation in Erdogan's battle with former ally Fethullah Gulen, with whom he has been in open conflict since a corruption probe targeting his inner circle emerged a year ago.
Erdogan accuses Gulen of establishing a 'parallel' structure in the state through his supporters in the judiciary, police and other institutions, and of wielding influence through the media. The cleric denies any ambition to overthrow Erdogan.
"They cry press freedom, but (the raids) have nothing to do with it," Erdogan said, speaking at the opening of an extension to an oil refinery near Istanbul.
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Erdogan, whose AK Party was elected in 2002, introduced many democratic reforms in his first years in power and curbed army involvement in politics. NATO allies often cited Turkey as an example of a successful Muslim democracy, but more recently critics have accused Erdogan of intolerance of dissent and, increasingly, a divisive reversion to Islamist roots.
He has cast the battle against Gulen's "Hizmet" (service) network as a continuation of Turkey's "normalization", a struggle to root out anti-democratic forces, and said on Monday that Turkey's democratic standards were rising.
"This process is the planting of the seeds of the new Turkey," he said.
"Those who try to get involved in dirty business and dirty relations with the hope of returning Turkey to its old days are getting the necessary response, and will continue to get it."
Istanbul Chief Prosecutor Hadi Salihoglu said on Sunday arrest warrants had been issued for 31 people on charges of "establishing a terrorist group", forgery and slander.
Two former police chiefs, Samanyolu's chairman and the staff of two Samanyolu drama series, one about an anti-terrorism squad and the other set in a southeast hit by Kurdish rebellion, were among those detained.
Asked whether he expected "sabotage" from Gulen allies ahead of a parliamentary election next June, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the pro-government Sabah newspaper on Monday that the state had to "take precautions".Other posts: More On Fethullah Gulen