Turkey arrested at least two dozen journalists, television producers and police today, including the editor of the country’s best-selling daily, amid what is being described by many as a purge against opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Those arrested are known to have close ties to self-exiled Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is living in the U.S., from where he has continued his fierce criticism of the president.
Erdogan vowed in a speech on Saturday to “bring down the network of treachery and make it pay.”
The Telegraph says the arrest of Ekrem Dumanli, the editor-in-chief of Zaman, was broadcast live on Turkish television.
“Among the others seized were a soap opera scriptwriter and other television drama staff; the head of a company which owns a major television channel; and former and current senior policemen.”
Gulen, whose movement, Hizmet, “used to run schools across the country and still has widespread support,” was once a close ally of Erdogan, but the two have fallen out over accusations that the group’s followers are behind corruption allegations that forced several of the president’s Cabinet ministers to resign last year, the Telegraph says.
“The Anatolia news agency says a court issued a warrant to arrest 31 people and that 23 of them were detained in raids in Istanbul and other cities across Turkey on Sunday.
“Among those detained were Ekrem Dumanli, the editor-in-chief of Zaman, and Hikmet Karaca, the head of Samanyolu TV, and senior police officers.
“‘History will remember the good people who walked without looking back for a more democratic Turkey,’ Dumanli told reporters at the newspaper’s headquarters in Istanbul, before his detention.”
Erdogan, who served as prime minister for more than a decade before being elected president this year, heads up the religiously conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has relaxed many of the secular strictures that had been first instituted by the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
As The Washington Post writes, many of Erdogan’s opponents see the new president’s actions “as a sign of the creeping Islamization of Turkey’s resolutely secular society that has taken place under Erdogan’s watch.
“Bans on headscarves and veils have been lifted by Erdogan. The number of students studying in state-run religious seminaries has grown from 63,000 in 2002, when Erdogan first came to power, to nearly 1 million today — a statistic the Turkish president celebrates.”