Cumhuriyet daily editor, top executives detained in operation against the oppositional newspaper

Turkish police raided the homes of 15 journalists from the Cumhuriyet daily on Oct. 31, detaining 13 of them.

The operation came two days after the government shut down 15 news outlets, most of which were pro-Kurdish organizations.

The 13 detained were Editor-in-Chief of Cumhuriyet Murat Sabuncu; former editor of the daily’s books supplement Turhan Günay; columnists Hikmet Çetinkaya, Aydın Engin, Güray Öz, Hakan Kara; the newspaper’s editorial advisor Kadri Gürsel — who is also the head of IPI Turkey office–;cartoonist Musa Kart; members of the Cumhuriyet Foundation’s Executive Board Bülent Utku, Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Önder Çelik, Bülent Yener, and  head of the newspaper’s accounting department Günseli Özaltay.

Detention warrants were also issued for Akın Atalay, vice president of the Cumhuriyet Foundation and journalist Nebil Özgentürk. The two men were outside the country at the time of the raid. Cumhuriyet Foundation President Orhan Erinç’s home was also raided, but he wasn’t taken into custody due to his advanced age.

A statement from the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office said the raids were the result of an investigation launched on Aug. 18, following “claims that [the newspaper’s] publications printed prior to the July 15 coup attempt served to legitimize the coup, on charges of committing crimes on behalf of the terrorist organizations FETÖ/PDY [Fethullahist Terror Organization/Parallel State Structure] and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)/Kurdistan Communities’ Union (KCK),” both of which are considered terrorist organizations by Turkey, although there is no organization that calls itself “FETÖ/PDY” and so far no court ruling has established that the said group is a terror organization.

A gag order was issued for the Cumhuriyet investigation, Bianet reported. 

The attack on the critical newspaper caused outrage, with many professional press organizations including the Turkish Association of Journalists (TGC), the Turkish Journalists’ Union (TGS), Basın-İş —  a member of the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions (DİSK) — and the Turkish representative of Reporters without Borders (RSF), have called on supporters to gather outside the Cumhuriyet office in Istanbul. Thousands gathered outside the Cumhuriyet building in protest of the arrests.

European politicians also issued critical statements. “The detention of Murat Sabuncu and other #Cumhuriyet journalists is yet another red-line crossed against freedom of expression in #Turkey” tweeted Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament.

Dutch MEP Kati Piri, who is also the European Parliament rapporteur on Turkey’s accession progress, tweeted “The situation in Turkey is going from bad to worse. Today’s crackdown on Turkey’s oldest independent paper #Cumhuriyet is unacceptable.”

The U.S. State Department said it was deeply concerned by the continuing pressure on news media.

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