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Turkey targets Erdogan opponents in post-election crackdown

AFP | Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured left) and his nemesis, Fethullah Gulen

Turkey launched a crackdown on journalists and political rivals of President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday following his AK Party’s election victory two days ago.

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Among those arrested were dozens of police officers and bureaucrats with alleged links to the exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a longtime arch-foe of Erdogan’s who has been accused of seeking to overthrow the government.

Turkish prosecutors also charged two senior editors at an opposition-aligned magazine with plotting a coup over a magazine cover criticising Erdogan's election win.

"Nokta editor-in-chief Cevheri Guven and managing editor Murat Capan were arrested on charges of attempting to overthrow the government by force," the magazine wrote on Twitter.

Police on Monday had raided the Istanbul offices of the left-wing Nokta and detained the two editors over the cover that read: "The start of civil war in Turkey".

An Istanbul court later ordered that the magazine's latest edition be withdrawn from the shelves, accusing it of inciting the public to commit a crime.
In his initial testimony published by Nokta, Guven denied the charges, saying it was impossible to incite people to "take up arms and fight" with a magazine that had been prepared well before the election.

Ismail Eren, the magazine’s editor, described the arrests as a “big blow to press freedom”.

“We’re the first victims of the elections, but it’s clear we won’t be the last. There is a difficult period ahead for us journalists, but we will not lay down our pens because of that,” he said.

‘Gulenist terror group’ members arrested

Earlier, the prosecutor’s office in the western city of Izmir said it ordered the arrest of 57 people believed to be members of the “Gulenist terror group”, on allegations they sought a purge of the army by engineering a 2012 espionage trial.

Gulen was the “number one” suspect in the latest investigation, according to the Dogan news agency.

The operation came two days after the AK Party, which Erdogan founded, secured a return to single-party rule, in an election result he portrayed as a vote for stability but which opponents fear heralds growing authoritarianism.

Police detained 44 of the suspects in dawn raids, including a former Izmir police chief and three state governors, in an operation covering 18 provinces, state-run Anadolu Agency said. Arrest warrants were issued for the other 13.

The 2012 espionage case involved the trial of 357 people, including soldiers, accused of possessing secret military information and documents. Those defendants have been released but the case continues.

The Izmir prosecutor’s office said in a statement there was “serious evidence” that the 57 suspects sought to use the 2012 case to orchestrate a purge in the state bureaucracy and the military.

FRANCE 24’s Jasper Mortimer reports from Ankara, Turkey

During his early years as prime minister, Erdogan sought to tame the power of an army which had dominated Turkish politics for decades. Gulen, then his ally, was widely held to have helped in the process through his influence in the judiciary.

The drive was epitomised by high-profile trials of those who allegedly plotted to overthrow his government. Officials suggest those cases were brought by police and prosecutors close to Gulen. Gulen denies such allegations.

Erdogan turned against Gulen and launched a crackdown against his followers after police and prosecutors seen as sympathetic to the cleric opened a corruption investigation into Erdogan’s inner circle in 2013.

The cleric has lived in exile in the United States since 1999 and is himself the subject of arrest warrants in Turkey. A prosecutor is seeking a prison sentence of up to 34 years on allegations that he sought to topple Erdogan. Gulen also denies that allegation.

Erdogan’s campaign against Gulen continued in the months leading up to Sunday’s election. On Oct. 27, Turkish authorities took over the anagement of companies including newspapers and TV stations linked to the cleric.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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