Nine people have been arrested in the “terrorism” investigation targeting Cumhuriyet, one of Turkey’s oldest and most-respected newspapers.
Those arrested on Nov. 5 were Murat Sabuncu, the daily’s editor-in-chief, IPI Board Member Kadri Gürsel, caricaturist Musa Kart, and Cumhuriyet Foundation board members Güray Tekin Öz, Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Turhan Günay, Hakan Kara, Önder Çelik and Bülent Utku.
The arrested names are accused of committing crimes on behalf of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party
(PKK) and the network of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, widely believed to have orchestrated the July 15 failed coup attempt.
In its ruling, the court quoted headlines and stories published in Cumhuriyet as evidence of the alleged links. It also said the suspects denied the accusations in their interrogations, arguing that these denials “created suspicion that the suspects may tamper with the evidence, intimidate witnesses, or flee the country if set free.”
Among the evidence the court cited in its ruling was a tweet by Mustafa Balbay, Cumhuriyet’s former Ankara
bureau chief and current Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker. “Everything from [supporting] FETÖ to being pro-Kurdish [Kürtçü] is allowed in Cumhuriyet, but it is forbidden to submit articles as a CHP
lawmaker,” Balbay had written on his Twitter account on Feb. 4, 2016, referring to the Gülen network as the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).
Cumhuriyet has expressed defiance in the wake of the arrests.
“We will not bow down,” it said on its front page on Nov. 6, in a message directed at the government.
Supporters and staff at the paper kept a vigil in support of their colleagues, holding up copies of the latest edition.
“I am not just saying the case is nonsense, it is immoral,” said columnist Aydın Engin, one of two staff released on probation by the court.
Reading a message from editor-in-chief Sabuncu, he said: “We bow down in front of our people and our readers. We do not bow down in front of anyone else.”
The newspaper’s former editor-in-chief Can Dündar and Cumhuriyet Foundation Executive Board President Akın Atalay, who are currently abroad, are also wanted in the investigation.
Cumhuriyet was in 2015 awarded the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) TV5 Monde Press Freedom Prize to recognize its “courageous coverage” and fight for media freedom “in an increasingly hostile environment.”