Turkish authorities on Monday issued arrest warrants for more than 40 journalists in a new phase of the controversial legal crackdown after a failed coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sparking fresh alarm over the scope of the detentions.
With Erdogan seeking to rally national cross-party support for his rule 10 days after defeating the attempted putsch, he hosted two top opposition leaders for an unprecedented meeting at the presidential palace, resulting in signs of an agreement to work together on a new constitution.
More than 13,000 people have been detained so far in a vast sweep in the wake of the July 15 military coup bid, which the authorities blame on the reclusive US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen.
The crackdown has raised tensions with the EU, further hampering Ankara’s stalled membership bid, while a potential diplomatic crisis with Washington is looming if the US refuses to extradite Gulen to Turkey, a fellow NATO member.
Istanbul anti-terror prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 42 journalists as part of the coup investigation, Anadolu news agency said.
Among those targeted was prominent journalist Nazli Ilicak, who was fired from the pro-government Sabah daily in 2013 for criticizing ministers caught up in a corruption scandal, it added.
Five people have been detained so far, although 11 of the suspects are believed to already be outside the nation, Dogan news agency said.
Other prominent journalists hit with warrants include the commentator Bulent Mumay and the news editor of Fox TV in Turkey, Ercan Gun.
Amnesty International said the overall crackdown was a “brazen purge based on political affiliation” and the latest detentions represented a “draconian clampdown on freedom of expression.”
Meanwhile, security forces detained seven fugitive troops on the southern Aegean coast on suspicion of taking part in an attack on the hotel where Erdogan stayed during the failed coup.
Described by Turkish media as an “assassination squad,” they had evaded arrest for days by hiding in caves and hills above the resort of Marmaris.
With the backlash against the coup affecting all aspects of life in Turkey, Turkish Airlines said it had fired 211 employees over suspected links to Gulen and behavior “conflicting with the interest of our country.”
Turkey has undergone a seismic shift since the night of violence when renegade soldiers sought to topple Erdogan, but were stopped by crowds of civilians and loyalist security forces.
At least 270 people were killed on both sides.
A bridge over the Bosphorus in Istanbul — which saw some of the fiercest fighting — is to be renamed July 15 Martyrs’ Bridge after the victims of the failed coup bid, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said.
Erdogan last week announced a three-month state of emergency that has caused alarm in the EU, while the suggestion that Ankara might reinstate capital punishment for the plotters has created new uncertainty about the nation’s long-running bid to join the bloc.
The government says the stringent measures are needed to clear out the influence of Gulen from Turkey’s institutions, claiming he has created a “parallel state.”
Gulen — who lives in a compound in rural Pennsylvania and whose foundation runs a global network of schools, charities and media interests — has strongly denied the accusations.
In an article for the New York Times, Gulen said he wanted Turkey never to have to endure the “ordeal” of military coups again, while accusing Erdogan of a “dangerous drive toward one-man rule.”
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