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Turkey Detains Head of Opposition Newspaper

  • VOA News

Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu speaks to the media after his visit in solidarity to Cumhuriyet newspaper in Istanbul, Nov. 10, 2016.

Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu speaks to the media after his visit in solidarity to Cumhuriyet newspaper in Istanbul, Nov. 10, 2016.

Turkey on Friday detained the board chairman of the opposition daily Cumhuriyet, following the arrests of nine staff members last week, the newspaper reported.

Police stopped Akin Atalay at Istanbul's airport on his arrival from Germany, said Cumhuriyet, which has been a strong critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Atalay was held for a while at the airport and later was ushered into a police vehicle, which took him to the Istanbul Security Directorate. Cumhuriyet said he is being held in connection with an investigation into "terrorist activities."

Nine of the paper's senior staff members, including editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu, remained in custody Friday pending trial after raids that added to growing international alarm about media freedom in Turkey.

The exiled former editor-in-chief, Can Dundar, who stands accused of revealing state secrets, fled to Germany earlier this year while appealing against a nearly six-year jail term.

Turkey has closed more than 130 media outlets since a failed coup attempt against Erdogan in July, raising concerns among its Western allies about deteriorating press freedoms in the country.

Warnings against crackdown

Earlier this week, the European Union's Executive Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned Turkey that its crackdown on political opponents and the media contradict EU values and give the impression that it no longer wants to join the bloc.

Juncker called on Erdogan to immediately say “whether Turkey really wants to be – yes or no – a member of the European Union.”

Juncker's comments followed a week that brought the arrests of 10 lawmakers from Turkey's pro-Kurdish party, in addition to the Cumhuriyet journalists, on suspicion of links to terror groups.

Access to social media websites and apps also have been restricted, a move seen as a bid by the government to prevent protests from being organized.

Turkey has suspended more than 110,000 people, ranging from soldiers and judges to teachers and journalists, and has made some 35,000 arrests since the failed military coup in July, which Ankara blames on the U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.

Erdogan's critics have accused the government of using the coup as an excuse to stifle all forms of dissent.

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