Two days after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to “overthrow” what he called a “network of treason,” Turkey’s counter-terrorism police on Sunday arrested more than two dozen prominent media and government figures, including the editor of the country’s largest newspaper and the general manager of a major broadcasting group.
The Istanbul prosecutor said all were detained on suspicion of establishing, heading or joining an armed terrorist organization, as well as forgery and slander.
The European Union denounced the media arrests as “incompatible with the freedom of media, which is a core principle of democracy.” The U.S. State Department noted that the raids targeted media outlets that are openly critical of the current government and urged Turkey not to violate its “core values” and its “own democratic foundation.”
All of those arrested appeared to have links to Fetullah Gulen, a Turkish religious scholar who once was an ally of Erdogan, but broke with him several years ago and is now living in Pennsylvania.
Among those arrested were Ekram Dumanli, the editor-in-chief of Zaman, Turkey’s largest daily newspaper, with a reported circulation of 1 million, and Hidayet Karaca, the general manager of the Samanyolu Broadcasting group. Seven policeman and the former heads of the Istanbul counter-terror and organized crime departments were also arrested in raids that took place simultaneously in 13 Turkish provinces.
Mustafa Edib Yilmaz, Zaman’s foreign editor, got the word on Twitter early Sunday morning that police were headed to the newspaper’s headquarter not far from Istanbul airport. “I drove like crazy to get here to be here as everything was happening,” he said.