Developments in Turkey are woefully under-reported in the foreign press. We provide below one of the few stories in English on today’s alarming raid on an independent news site today.
Turkish journalist detained for questioning over links to alleged coup plot
By Suzan Fraser (CP) – 2 hours ago
ANKARA, Turkey — Police on Monday searched the premises of a dissident news website and detained its owner over possible links to an alleged secularist network accused of conspiring to topple the Turkish government.
Police raided the Istanbul headquarters of the Oda TV website and the homes of its owner, journalist and author Soner Yalcin, and three colleagues, lawyer Serkan Gunel told reporters. Yalcin was later detained for questioning, the Anatolia news agency reported.
Turkish news reports said the raids came hours after Oda TV posted a video that allegedly discredits police investigating the network. The website could be accessed only sporadically on Monday and there was no link to a video.
There has been a surge in the number of cases filed by state prosecutors against Turkish media, many related to the trials of the alleged network, called Ergenekon — after a legendary valley in Central Asia believed to be the ancestral homeland of the Turkish people. The Association says thousands of journalists face prosecution, and 58 are currently imprisoned for their writings or opinions.
Some 400 people, including politicians, retired military officers, academics and journalists, are already on trial accused of being a part of the Ergenekon conspiracy. One of the most prominent defendants is Mustafa Balbay, a columnist for pro-secular Cumhuriyet newspaper and a fierce government critic, who has been in jail for more than two years.
Turkish journalist groups decried Monday’s raid as an affront to press freedoms and free speech.
"This raid isn’t against Oda TV, it is against press freedoms," said Atilla Sertel, who heads the Turkish Federation of Journalists. The group said police confiscated the website’s computers as well as journalists’ documents and notes.
The Istanbul-based Turkish Journalists’ Association said the raid was the latest example of "intolerance" toward journalists.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government insists the Ergenekon trials are a step toward democratic reform. Opponents counter that many of the accused are innocent and have been targeted as part of a broader plan to muzzle dissent and undermine Turkey’s secular legacy.
Meanwhile, in a seperate case Monday, a high-ranking retired general, Cetin Dogan, turned himself over to authorities and was taken to an Istanbul jail, days after a court ruled that some 160 current and former military officers must be jailed pending the outcome of a trial dubbed "Sledgehammer" on charges of plotting to overthrow the government.
Most of the defendants in the case — including Turkey’s former air and navy chiefs — were jailed on Friday after the court announced its decision and ordered the courthouse doors shut. The court issued arrest warrants for 29 officers who had not attended Friday’s hearing, including Dogan, the commander of Turkey’s first army, who is accused of leading the alleged coup plot.
The charges against the officers stem from leaked documents published by the Taraf newspaper. The prosecutor says the alleged conspirators hoped to create chaos through a series of assassinations and attacks which would lead to calls for a military takeover.
The military, which has overthrown three Turkish governments since 1960 and pressured an Islamic-led government to step down in 1997, has denied such a plot, saying documents used as evidence are from a military training seminar, chaired by Dogan, during which officers simulated a scenario of internal strife. Many of the defendants were officers who attended the seminar.
"There is no evidence, but we’re being jailed," Dogan told reporters before he was escorted to jail.