Turkish police arrest editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet opposition daily, raid executives’ homes
In the early hours of Monday morning, police raided the houses of Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu, Executive Board Chairman Akın Atalay, and board member and writer Guray Oz.
Sabuncu and Oz have been taken into custody, Cumhuriyet correspondent Mahir Zeynalov tweeted.
Turkish authorities issued arrest orders for at least 13 Cumhuriyet employees and executives, according to CNN Turk.
The Istanbul Chief Prosecutor's office said that “an investigation was launched into certain suspects [...] on grounds of claims and discoveries that some executives of the Cumhuriyet Foundation had been sponsoring the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party), FETO/PYD (Gulenist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Organization) and they had been producing articles justifying the coup [of] July 15,” as cited by Istanbul-based news agency Bianet.
Сolumnists Guray Oz and Aydin Engin were taken into custody following raids at their homes, Cumhuriyet said on its website. Asked by reporters to comment on his detention, Engin, 75, said: “I work for Cumhuriyet, isn't that enough?”
Apart from the current Cumhuriyet staff, an arrest order has been issued for Can Dundar, the newspaper’s former editor-in-chief, who is currently out of the country.
The number of imprisoned journalists in Turkey this year is more than the total number of journalists imprisoned in past 15 years combined.— Mahir Zeynalov (@MahirZeynalov) October 31, 2016
Dundar has faced the government’s wrath before, having spent three months in jail last year along with two other Cumhuriyet employees. All three men were detained after publishing a report which claimed to show Turkish intelligence officials supplying Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists in Syria with arms. Cumhuriyet is well-known for its coverage of the scandal, both prior to and after the arrest of its staff members.
The newspaper’s readers have gathered in front of its headquarters in Istanbul in protest against the arrests.
Ankara accuses cleric Fethullah Gulen and his supporters of orchestrating the July 15 coup that aimed to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Gulen, who lives in the US, denies involvement. A massive crackdown on suspected Gulen supporters followed the coup attempt, with at least 37,000 people arrested and thousands of civil servants suspended.
In the latest move, 15 media outlets were shut down and another 10,131 civil servants were dismissed over the weekend, Anadolu news agency reported.
Also on Saturday, the President Erdogan announced he would support the re-implementation of the death penalty in Turkey if parliament votes in favor of the step.
The initiative, which drew criticism when it was first voiced by Erdogan following the coup, could see those charged with conspiring against him being put to death. European politicians and EU authorities have repeatedly warned Turkey that if it re-establishes capital punishment it will not be accepted into the bloc.
“The death penalty is a cruel and inhumane form of punishment, which has to be abolished worldwide and stands in clear contradiction to European values,” Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz told the Austrian Press Agency, adding that Turkey would “slam the door shut to the European Union” if it does re-establish it.