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Legendary Turkish journalist İlhan Selçuk dies at 85

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 6/21/2010 12:00:00 AM |

İlhan Selçuk, the chief editor of daily Cumhuriyet, died in Istanbul at 1:15 p.m. Monday at the age of 85. (UPDATED)

İlhan Selçuk, the chief editor of daily Cumhuriyet, died in Istanbul at 1:15 p.m. Monday at the age of 85.

Selçuk, who was also a writer for the paper, had been in the intensive-care unit at the Vehbi Koç Foundation American Hospital since Jan. 24 because of an ischemic brain disease. He died Monday from multiple organ failure.

The journalist’s funeral is being planned for either Tuesday or Wednesday in the Hacıbektaş district of Nevşehir province, where he will be buried next to his brother, cartoonist Turhan Selçuk, who died in March.

Many of Selçuk’s friends and colleagues gathered at the building housing daily Cumhuriyet after they heard the news. Çetin Soysal, Istanbul deputy for the opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, addressed the journalists there, saying the people who had tried Selçuk as part of such a “raving case as Ergenekon” should be ashamed of themselves.

Journalist and writer Mehmet Faraç also spoke, saying: “This is the result of Ergenekon terror. I believe İlhan Selçuk was murdered.”

Selçuk was detained March 21, 2008, as part of the Ergenekon investigation. His house was raided by the police in the early hours while he slept, an action widely criticized in many circles. He was released the next day to be tried without arrest.

Hikmet Çetinkaya, a columnist for Cumhuriyet and a close friend of Selçuk, spoke to CNNTürk minutes after the journalist’s death was announced and also blamed the Ergenekon investigation. According to Çetinkaya, the process that worsened Selçuk’s health began with the investigation and continued with a heart attack he experienced as a consequence of the questioning in the ongoing case.

“İlhan Selçuk was a person who chased democracy and freedom. He was a restless defender of [Turkish Republic founder Mustafa Kemal] Atatürk’s revolution,” Çetinkaya said of his friend.

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also spoke to CNNTürk and agreed with Çetinkaya about the Ergenekon investigation. “I think [Selçuk] was treated unfairly during the Ergenekon process. I hope a lesson will be learned from this,” he said, adding that intellectuals are valuable to the country no matter what they believe.

Born in the western province of Aydın in 1925, Selçuk graduated from Istanbul University’s Law School in 1950 and started writing for various magazines and newspapers. Throughout his long career, Selçuk wrote numerous books and novels. Some of his well-known works include “Güzel Amerikalı” (The Beautiful American), “Ağlamak ve Gülmek” (Laughing and Crying), “Japon Gülü” (Japanese Rose), “Ziverbey Köşkü” (Ziverbey Mansion) and “Düşünüyorum Öyleyse Vurun” (I Think, Therefore Shoot Me).

The Ergenekon case started in June 2007 with the discovery of 27 hand grenades in a shanty house belonging to a retired noncommissioned officer. The finding has led to scores of arrests and put nearly 200 journalists, writers, military personnel, gang leaders, scholars, businessmen and politicians in detention in what has become a terror investigation to stop an alleged ultranationalist, shadowy gang known as Ergenekon. In the later stages of the investigation, those in custody have been accused of planning to topple the government by staging a coup initially by spreading chaos and mayhem.

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