Police in Turkey today arrested dozens of people — including senior bureaucrats and policemen — suspected of links with the exiled Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, a rival of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who secured victory in Sunday's elections.
Two editors of the left-leaning Nokta news magazine were also charged on Tuesday over its latest issue, which featured a picture of the president with the words, "The beginning of the Turkish civil war" — a day after Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) regained the parliamentary majority it had lost in a June poll.
"Senior editors Cevheri Guven and Murat Capan have been sent to jail pending trial over charges of 'staging a coup attempt' and 'attempting to overthrow the government,'" Nokta said on its Twitter account today.
2 editors of Nokta magazine detained https://t.co/ACCbE4UvYd pic.twitter.com/LUEnLla9iL" byline="— Today's Zaman (@todayszamancom)" user_id="todayszamancom" tweet_id="661199775736438784" tweet_visual_time="November 2, 2015"]
Forty-four people were arrested today while warrants have been issued for 57 in total. The raids continue Erdogan's clampdown on opposition voices, where last week, just days before the election, Turkish police raided the Istanbul headquarters of the media group Koza-Ipek, also linked to Gulen.
According to Turkish media reports, 58 employees of the Koza-Ipek group have been dismissed this month after a court ruling placed it under the management of new trustees. The employees were forced to take mandatory leave following the police raid on the media group.
The leader of the Hizmet movement and once an Erdogan ally, Gulen was accused by the Turkish government of operating an armed terror group, a claim denied by the cleric, who now lives in self-imposed exile in the United States. A warrant was issued by the Turkish courts for his arrest in 2014.
The storming of the media headquarters provoked press freedom concerns and condemnation around the world, where 50 leading international news editors signed an open letter calling upon the president to protect journalists. "We share widespread concerns that recent events are part of a concerted campaign to silence any opposition or criticism of the government in the run up to the election," the letter stated.
It also pointed to troubling recent incidents, including the ongoing imprisonment of VICE News journalist Mohammed Ismael Rasool.
Just before the raid, the editor-in-chief of Bugun TV told viewers: "This is an operation to silence all the dissident voices that the ruling party does not like, including media outlets, opposition parties, and businessmen. This is true for anyone who does not obey." According to Reporters Without Borders, Turkey is ranked 149 out of 180 countries in its press freedom index.
At the weekend, the AKP won back a parliamentary majority, gaining 317 of the 550 seats. Upon his victory, Erodogan attacked the global media, stating: "Is this your understanding of democracy? Now a party with some 50 percent in Turkey has attained power. This should be respected by the whole world, but I have not seen such maturity."
Observers, however, have criticized the election. Andreas Gross, head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe delegation, said the "campaign was unfair and characterized by too much violence and fear."
Tuesday's arrest also coincides with security forces declaring a curfew in several neighborhoods of a southeastern Turkish town, where a 22-year-old civilian was today killed in clashes with Kurdish militants, as well as Turkey's military carrying out further airstrikes on Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) bases in northern Iraq.
In the town of Silvan — 37 miles north of the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir — militants of the youth wing of the PKK dug trenches to keep police out, according to security forces, while a curfew was imposed on three neighborhoods.
Separately, two men were shot dead in clashes between police and members of the PKK youth wing, one of the group's most radical elements, in the town of Yuksekova, near the Iranian border, the sources said.
A military statement released on Tuesday declared that Turkish forces struck shelters and weapon stores used by the PKK on Monday. Since July, Turkey has been launching aerial operations against PKK targets, following renewed fighting between security forces and militants, leaving a two-year ceasefire in tatters.
Reuters contributed to this report