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Ten arrested after Turkish police crack down on journalists

Ten people, mostly journalists, have been arrested in Turkey in a crackdown on an alleged network accused of conspiring to topple the country’s government.

Police detain Mumtaz Idil, the Ankara representative of the anti-government Oda TV, second left, in Ankara, Turkey.
Police detain Mumtaz Idil, the Ankara representative of the anti-government Oda TV, second left, in Ankara, Turkey.
Image: AP Photo

TURKISH POLICE HAVE detained about ten people, mostly journalists, in a crackdown on an alleged secularist network accused of conspiring to topple the Islamic-leaning government.

Critics say the case is part of a government assault on press freedom.

Police raided homes of suspects in Ankara and Istanbul, copied hard disks of their computers and seized notes or books that could serve as evidence in the case of the alleged Ergenekon network, NTV television said. Officials allege Ergenekon tried to overthrow Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamic-leaning government in 2003.

The event has sparked an outcry over freedom of the press in EU-hopeful Turkey, reports Istanbul newspaper Hürriyet Daily News. The United States has expressed concern after a similar raid last month, prompting denials by Erdogan of any attempt to silence journalists.

The government’s opponents said the detentions were an attempt by the government to silence any criticism ahead of the parliamentary elections slated for June. ”The detentions of journalists has just one goal: to silence voices of opposition that criticize the government,” said Akif Hamzacelebi, a senior member of the main opposition Republican People’s Party.

The European Union and the Committee to Protect Journalists have accused Turkey of suppressing critical news and commentary on the alleged anti-government conspiracy. About 400 people, including journalists, politicians, academics and retired military officers are on trial, accused of being part of the alleged network.

“Free press is being intimidated in Turkey,” Turkey’s Journalists Association said in a statement.

Erdogan accuses Kurdish spokesperson

Meanwhile, Erdogan has also accused the country’s leading pro-Kurdish party on Thursday of serving as a “spokesman” for an outlawed Kurdish rebel group that is fighting for autonomy.

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Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticised the People’s Democracy Party following demands from the party to move imprisoned Kurdish rebel chief Abdullah Ocalan from a prison island to house arrest – and to end the prosecution of dozens of Kurdish mayors on charges of separatism. The government has refused.

“We see a political party leaving politics and democratic ground, being a spokesman for the terrorist organization,” Erdogan said. The accusation raised concerns of more rebel violence because it came soon after the insurgents ended a unilateral cease-fire.

Bengi Yildiz, a Kurdish lawmaker from the Democracy Party, reacted angrily, saying Erdogan’s comments were “unacceptable.”

- additional reporting by AP

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