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Turkish Media Crackdown Continues with Raids on Group Aligned with Muslim Cleric

The US-based cleric has been accused by Turkey's president of attempting to oust him, and of participating in "terrorist activities."

by VICE News
Sep 1 2015, 4:25pm

Partidarios del movimiento Hizmet de Fethullah Gülen gritando eslóganes mientras ondean banderas turcas en Estambul, Turquía 18 de diciembre de 2014. Imagen por Sedat Suna/EPA

Authorities under the direction of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have searched the offices of a conglomerate with close ties to exiled Muslim cleric and Erdogan foe Fethullah Gulen, the company said Tuesday.

Police raided 23 arms of the conglomerate, Koza Ipek group, which includes mining companies and media assets, based on suspicions the holding company is providing financial support to the "Gulenist Terrorist Group," according to Turkey's state media, Anadolu Agency. Six people have been detained, Reuters reported.

Erdogan has accused Gulen of attempting to oust him through multiple channels across the judiciary, media, and police allied with the Gulen movement, which is also known as the Hizmet movement. Gulen, who currently lives in self-imposed exile in the US, once supported Erdogan, but has since become an outspoken critic of the president. Gulen himself has been accused of participating in "terrorist activities," but denies these charges and any plans to overthrow Erdogan.

"The aim here is to silence the opposition media ahead of an election," Erkan Akkus, a news editor for Bugun newspaper, one of Koza Ipek's media outlets, told Reuters.

"It is wrong to see this as aimed just at our group," he added. "They are starting with us to test the waters, and if it doesn't spark an outcry, it could then spread to other media groups."

Related: VICE News Condemns Turkish Government Over Detention of Its Journalists on Terrorism Charges

In a written statement, Koza Ipek Chairman Akin Ipek, whose home is being searched as part of the raids, as is the company headquarters, denied the suspicions leveled at the conglomerate.

Police in Turkey did not immediately comment, but Anadolu Agency said authorities were not targeting the company's media businesses.

In December, Ekrem Dumanli, the editor of the Turkish newspaper Zaman, was detained along with Samanyolu TV Group's chairman, Hidayet Karaca, and several other journalists for allegedly forming and leading an "armed terrorist organization." Both media groups are linked to Gulen.

Erdogan has been criticized by right groups and media outlets for an increasing crackdown on free speech in Turkey ahead of the November election. Media suppression has reportedly intensified after Erdogan failed to win a majority in the June ballot.

On Thursday, three members of a VICE News team were detained while reporting in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir. A Turkish court formally charged the journalists of "working on behalf of a terrorist organization" on Monday. Global rights groups have called for the three to be released.

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Tayyip Erdogan
Fethullah Gülen
cleric gulen
hizmet movement
koza ipek