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Turkey detains editor of opposition newspaper 'Cumhuriyet'

October 31, 2016

Turkish police have detained the editor-in-chief of the opposition newspaper "Cumhuriyet" following a series of raids. The government launched a wide-reaching crackdown on its critics in the wake of a July coup attempt.

Türkei Cumhuriyet Tageszeitung
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Suna

The "Cumhuriyet" newspaper said on Monday that its editor, Murat Sabuncu, was detained along with columnist Guray Oz after raids on their homes.

The paper also said police were searching for the head of its executive board, Akin Atalay. In total, 13 arrest warrants were issued for journalists and executives from the daily, according to CNN Turk.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency said Sabuncu was being held as part of "an investigation," without providing details.

Screenshot YouTube Murat Sabuncu
Murat SabuncuImage: YouTube/MARKA Konferansı

The detentions come as opposition parties and human rights groups allege that Turkey is using a state of emergency to clamp down on all dissenting voices. The state of emergency was introduced after a failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by a rogue section of the military in July. Since then, more than 100 media outlets have been shut down and dozens of journalists detained as part of a massive crackdown on opposition elements.

The co-chair of Germany's Greens, Cem Özdemir, lambasted the detentions, saying that "there is no press freedom in Turkey anymore."

"What's almost the last remaining real opposition paper in Turkey, Cumhuriyet, is being demolished. The editor-in-chief has been arrested, while his predecessor is in Germany in exile," Özdemir said, referring to the former Cumhuriyet boss Can Dundar. "Anyone with a different opinion to the one permitted by Erdogan no longer has a future as a journalist in Turkey."

Opposition targeted

Ankara accuses those targeted of being affiliated with US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom it blames for the attempted putsch. Gulen has denied any involvement. 

In a statement, the government said the operation against Cumhuriyet was launched over its alleged "activities on behalf of" the Gulen movement and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). 

"Cumhuriyet"'s former editor-in-chef Can Dundar was sentenced to five years in prison earlier this year for revealing state secrets after publishing reports about alleged Turkish arms shipments to Syrian rebels. Dundar, who now lives in Germany, was sentenced along with the paper's Ankara correspendent, Erdem Gul.

The left-leaning secular publication, one of Turkey's oldest newspapers, is often highly critical of the ruling conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP). It was awarded this year's Right Livelihood Award.

rc,nm/msh (AFP, AP, dpa)