Staff members and supporters of Zaman newspaper protest against a raid by counter-terror police outside the newspaper's headquarters in Istanbul, Dec. 14. AFP Photo
Turkish police have launched a media operation to detain 31 people, including media figures and former police chiefs, simultaneously raiding addresses in 13 provinces across the country.
The raid on daily Zaman occurred at 7.15 a.m. local time, as supporters of the newspaper stood guard in front of the office building upon rumors that such an operation would take place.
Police returned to the newspaper’s office at around 2.00 p.m. on Dec. 14 after leaving the building in the morning without starting any proceedings. Zaman editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanlı was taken to police station after being shown the notification of his detention.
Many of Turkey’s media organs were broadcasting live in the newspaper’s office when Dumanlı was detained.
As the raids were being carried out in the morning, the crowd outside the Zaman offices chanted slogans and held banners reading, “The free press cannot be silenced.” Dumanlı also made a speech, broadcast live on television, defiantly calling on the police to detain him.
Samanyolu Media Group Head Hidayet Karaca and a producer, scriptwriter and director were also detained, as well as Tufan Ergüder, the former head of the Istanbul Police Department’s anti-terror branch and the former head of the Hakkari Police Department.
In addition, three police officers have been separately detained in Tunceli, Mardin and Şırnak provinces and have been sent to Istanbul, Doğan News Agency reported.
‘Detentions for launching armed terror organization’
The Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office has released a public statement, giving the list of individuals to be detained in the operation.
“The detentions have been ordered [for the people on the list] in order to take their testimonies on charges of founding and directing an armed terror organization, being a member of this organization, and engaging in forgery and slander,” the statement said.
A total of 11 people have been detained so far, the statement added.
Istanbul Deputy Public Prosecutor Orhan Kapıcı has declined to comment on whether Fethullah Gülen was on the list.
The semi-official Anadolu Agency reported that the operation was launched for the detention of 32 people, including senior police officers and media members, on charges of fabricating crimes and evidence in a 2010 investigation into an organization reportedly closed to al-Qaeda.
Some 122 people were detained in an operation against the “Tahşiye Organization” in 2010. Mehmet Doğan, a senior leader of the organization, spent 17 months in prison before being released. It was claimed that retired imam Doğan was opposed to the ideas of Fethullah Gülen.
Zaman and Samanyolu are known for ties to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who has been at odds with the Turkish government, particularly since last December. The government accuses the Gülen movement of trying to stage a “coup” via a large corruption probe that broke in December 2013, which included a number of former Cabinet ministers and their relatives, along with many state officials.
The latest move also comes only two days after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
signaled a fresh campaign against Gülen’s supporters.
In his most recent tweets posted on Dec. 10, mysterious Twitter user Fuat Avni, whose identity remains unknown, suggested that several journalists close to Gülen movement, including Zaman editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanlı, would be detained in a raid on Dec. 12. He also gave many details about the dates, names and cities of alleged police operations, but later on Dec. 11 he posted more tweets suggesting that the police operations had been cancelled after the raid was revealed.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç had earlier said rumors voiced by Fuat Avni over the potential detention of dozens of journalists should be taken “seriously.”
“I find the Twitter posts to be serious. I hope they will not come to pass, or not come true to this extent, for anything to happen out of jurisdiction,” Arınç said during budget discussions at Parliament late on Dec. 11.