Turkey detains chairman of opposition newspaper

AP News
Posted: Nov 11, 2016 9:38 AM

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish authorities on Friday detained the chairman of the left-leaning and pro-secular opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet on Friday, a week after several senior staff members were arrested for allegedly supporting terrorist organizations.

Police detained Akin Atalay when his flight from Berlin arrived at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport, the state-run Anadolu agency reported.

Atalay had a standing detention order issued along with other senior staff for allegedly supporting Kurdish militants as well as a movement led by Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based Muslim cleric whom Turkey accuses of masterminding the failed coup in July.

Editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu, cartoonist Musa Kart and other staff were detained Oct. 31 and later put under arrest pending trial.

Atalay's wife, who was with her husband on the flight, told reporters at the airport that his arrest appeared to be a move that would pave the way for the appointment of a government trustee to oversee the newspaper.

"This isn't an action taken against the individuals. We think this action was taken so a trustee can be appointed to Cumhuriyet," Adalet Atalay said.

Cumhuriyet lawyer Bahri Belen said they were likely going to put Akin Atalay formally under arrest like his colleagues.

"We have been saying since the beginning that what was done against Cumhuriyet is a political operation, not a legal one. There is no legal basis behind the reasons given for our friends under arrest," he added.

Turkey has come under intense criticism from opposition groups and its allies over its crackdown on dissenting voices during the state of emergency declared after the coup. Critics note that the purge, initially meant to eliminate the Gulen network, has since extended to other opponents of the government including pro-Kurdish and left-wing individuals.

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Close to 37,000 people have been arrested, more than 100,000 people dismissed or suspended from government jobs, and 170 media outlets and scores of businesses and associations have been shut down over alleged ties to terrorist organizations.

On Friday, the Interior Ministry announced that another 370 associations had been closed for alleged terrorism links.

In a statement on its website, the ministry said 153 of the organizations had alleged ties to the Gulen network, 190 to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, eight to the Islamic State group and 19 to the banned far-left Revolutionary People's Liberation Army-Front, or DHKP-C.