Turkish police raid media offices of Erdogan rival

Counter-terror police conducted early morning raids in 13 cities across Turkey, including Istanbul, and detained at least 14 people including a top executive, producers and directors of a television channel close to Mr Gulen, the state-run Anatolia news agency said.

ISTANBUL // Turkish police have launched a sweeping operation to arrest dozens of supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rival, US-exiled imam Fethullah Gulen.

The operation, carried out on Sunday, included a raid on the offices of the Zaman daily newspaper, which is close to the cleric.

It came just two days after Mr Erdogan signalled a new campaign against supporters of Mr Gulen, who the president blamed for orchestrating a corruption investigation against members of his inner circle almost a year ago.

Counter-terror police conducted early morning raids in 13 cities across Turkey, including Istanbul, and detained at least 14 people including a top executive, producers and directors of a television channel close to Mr Gulen, the state-run Anatolia news agency said.

Arrest warrants were issued for a total of 32 people, including Ekrem Dumanli, the chief editor of Zaman, the country’s top selling newspaper.

A huge crowd gathered outside the offices of Zaman on the outskirts of Istanbul, forcing the police to leave the building without detaining any newspaper employees.

“The free press cannot be silenced,” the crowd chanted, as Mr Dumanli defiantly addressed them, challenged the police to come and detain him.

The operation was the latest in a series of raids against Gulen supporters since July, as the government cracks down on what Mr Erdogan has described as a “parallel state” within the security forces. The president accuses this “parallel state” of seeking to topple his government.

A vast corruption inquiry was launched on December 17, 2013, which saw dozens of leading businessmen and political figures close to Mr Erdogan, including the sons of three ministers, detained.

Mr Erdogan managed to stall the investigation by sacking thousands of police and scores of judges, and pushing through laws tightening state control over the judiciary and internet.

On Friday, the president said he would “pursue [Mr Gulen’s supporters] in their lairs”.

“I want my dear nation to know that we are not just faced with a simple network, but one which is a pawn of evil forces at home and abroad.”

Mr Gulen, 73, is the spiritual leader of the Hizmet movement, which controls media outlets, schools and culture centres. The cleric was a key backer of Mr Erdogan before falling out with him over government plans to shut down Hizmet schools.

The movement has denied being behind last year’s corruption investigation.

*Agence France-Presse

Published: December 14, 2014 04:00 AM

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