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Turkish court formally arrests 9 'Cumhuriyet' staff members

Nine staff members of the opposition Turkish newspaper "Cumhuriyet," including its editor-in-chief, were placed under formal arrest.

An Istanbul court on Saturday ordered the formal arrest of nine staff from the opposition "Cumhuriyet" newspaper ahead of their trial.

The nine placed under arrest after their detention earlier this week include editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu, cartoonist Musa Kart and columnist Kadri Gursel. They are accused of having links to Kurdish militants and the US-based Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara blames for the July 15 coup attempt.

"Cumhuriyet" staunchly denies all criminal charges against it as Turkey throttles internet access, especially to social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, while mobile internet access was also restricted at times. Washington has also voiced concern about the limits on freedom of expression. "c," which has continued to publish this week despite the detentions, also confirmed the arrests of its staff and leadership and ran a headline on its website saying the measures "will go down as a disgrace in history."

The paper's previous editor, Can Dundar, was jailed last year for publishing state secrets involving Turkey's armed support for Syrian militants. Dundar's case sparked censure from rights groups and Western governments worried about worsening human rights in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Dundar has since fled the country and lives in Berlin. 

Watch video 02:17

Turkey is dangerous for journalists

Founded in 1924 - making it the oldest newspaper in the Turkish republic - the secular left-leaning newspaper has long been critical of Erdogan and the ruling Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) that he co-founded.  

Since the failed coup, 170 newspapers, magazines, television stations and news agencies have been shut down, leaving 2,500 journalists out of work, Turkey's journalists' association said in a statement protesting the detentions.

This latest press crackdown comes a day after Turkish authorities moved against the leadership of the second-largest opposition party, at least a dozen pro-Kurdish politicians from the People's Democratic Party (HDP) were detained. Western leaders and rights groups have condemned the detentions.

Government critics have said the purges against opposition parties and media are being used to quash dissent in Turkey, a NATO member that still says it aspires to join the European Union.

Watch video 02:42

Erdogan: the media crackdown taking Turkey a step closer to autocracy

jar/sms (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)

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