Thirty-one Turkish citizens were arrested today after the government passed a new law allowing people to be arrested and held on reasonable suspicion. Those arrested included television program personnel, media executives, journalists, and law enforcement and were charged with setting up and assisting terrorist organizations and fraud.
Last year as the Turkish government was accused of widespread corruption, then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blamed the accusations on a shadow, or “parallel,” government. Erdoğan accused Fethullah Gulen of running said shadow government, even though Gulen is in self-imposed exile. Gulen, who is an Islamic spiritual leader, is currently living in the Pennsylvanian Pocono Mountains. However, the police made several arrests at the time, including family members of ministers and the head of a state-run bank. According to CNN, almost all of the charges have been dropped in those arrests.
Now almost to the day a year later, there are more arrests, but this time they are focusing on so-called opponents of the government. Another change is that Erdoğan is now President, instead of Prime Minister. Ekrem Dumanli, the editor-in-chief of the nation’s largest newspaper, was also arrested. In addition, the former head of the Anti-Terrorism Unit in the Istanbul Police Department was arrested.
A Twitter account belonging to a user who claims to in Erdoğan’s inner circle said that initially the amount of targeted journalists was much higher. However, internal controversy caused the police to lower the amount.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki released the following statement on behalf of the Department:
We are closely following reports that Turkish police have conducted a series of raids and arrests at locations across Turkey today. It appears that media outlets that have been openly critical of the current Turkish government are among the targets of these actions by Turkish law enforcement. Media freedom, due process, and judicial independence are key elements in every healthy democracy and are enshrined in the Turkish constitution. As Turkey’s friend and ally, we urge the Turkish authorities to ensure their actions do not violate these core values and Turkey’s own democratic foundations.
(h/t: Todays’ Zaman)