Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned the European Union (EU) to "mind its own business" following criticism over the arrest of opposition media figures, a move that risks further damage to Ankara's long-delayed bid to join the bloc.
Police seized at least 27 people on Sunday — including journalists, television producers and scriptwriters — with links to Fethullah Gulen, the America-based preacher and Islamic movement leader who is a staunch critic of Erdogan.
The raids sparked widespread condemnation from press freedom groups and a mild scolding from the US State Department. A statement from EU Foreign Affairs High Representative Federica Mogherini and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn, describing them as "against the European values" and "incompatible with the freedom of media," evidently stung Erdogan, however, and the president dismissed the criticism in a television address on Monday.
"The European Union cannot interfere in steps taken… within the rule of law against elements that threaten our national security… They should mind their own business," he said, according to an AFP translation.
"Elements that threaten our national security will receive the necessary response, even if they are members of the press," he added, going on to say that he did not care if the arrests damaged Turkey's EU membership bid. "When taking such a step we don't care what the EU might say, or if the EU is going to accept us."
EU-Turkish relations have been increasingly strained in recent months, partly due to Turkey's stalled membership progress and Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian tendencies.
The raids targeted a number of high profile figures, including the editors of Gulen-linked Zaman newspaper and Samanyolu TV (STV) alongside other members of staff. Scriptwriters, as well as an editor and director with STV drama series Tek Turkiye, were also detained.
Charges included "forming a crime syndicate to overtake the sovereignty of the state," as well as forgery and fabricating evidence, according to state-run Anadolu news agency.
Gulen and Erdogan were once allies, but have become sworn enemies and the president now accuses the cleric, who lives in self-imposed exile in the US, of using widespread influence to run a "parallel state."
Meanwhile, the trial of 35 soccer supporters accused of attempting to remove the government after participating in last year's Gezi Park protests begins on Tuesday in Istanbul. If found guilty, the defendants could face life imprisonment.
In June 2013 unprecedented mass demonstrations took place in Istanbul and elsewhere to protest plans to redevelop Gezi, which is located beside the city's main Taksim Square.
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