April 26, 2019 - 14:05 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Turkey launched a new round of its three-year crackdown on purported followers of a U.S.-based cleric it blames for an attempted coup, ordering the arrest of former employees of an opposition newspaper, active-duty military officers and police, Bloomberg reports.
A court on Thursday, April 25 said eight people who used to work at the Cumhuriyet daily must return to prison to serve the remainder of their terms for terrorism-related offences, the state-run Anadolu Agency said. A day later, prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 210 military officers and more than 41 policemen.
Authorities say the eight ex-newspaper employees aided groups including the outlawed network of Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, allegations that have been directed at thousands of Turks since the failed 2016 military putsch against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey has accused Gulen of masterminding the coup attempt and asked for his extradition from the U.S., where he has been in self-imposed exile for two decades.
Six of the group, including cartoonist Musa Kart, were returned to prison to serve the rest of their jail sentences of more than three years, Reporters Without Borders said Thursday. The other two, including journalist Kadri Gursel, the head of the Turkey committee for the Vienna-based International Press Institute, were yet to receive a summons ordering them back to jail, it said.
They were officially charged with helping terrorist organizations without being a member -- accusations that all eight deny.
“I’ve already served time required under the sentence of two and half years,” Gursel said by phone on Friday. “So I have an undeniable and unquestionable right to be freed on probation.”
Reporters Without Borders, which defends the freedom of the press worldwide, said it was “appalled to see these leading figures being thrown in prison again,” in a statement by its Turkey representative Erol Onderoglu. “This is the culmination of a ruthless political vengeance that highlights the collapse of the rule of law. This persecution benefits no one and brings shame upon Turkey.”