Turkey Issues Warrants for Scores of Journalists

     ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish authorities issued warrants on Monday for the detention of 42 journalists and took 31 academics into custody, official media reported, as the government pressed ahead with a crackdown against people allegedly linked to a U.S.-based Muslim cleric following a failed coup.
     The state-run Anadolu news agency said the list of journalists wanted for questioning included prominent writer Nazli Ilicak, who is critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Ilicak has opposed the government clampdown on a movement led by Fethullah Gulen, the cleric accused by Turkey of directing the July 15 coup attempt. Gulen has denied any involvement in the failed insurrection that left about 290 people dead and was put down by loyalist forces and pro-government protesters.
     So far, five journalists have been detained for questioning, Anadolu reported.
     Prosecutors requested their detention to shed light on the coup plot and the warrants are not related to their “journalistic activities, but possible criminal conduct,” a senior official in Erdogan’s office said in a text message sent to foreign media. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with Turkish government regulations.
     The list of wanted journalists, according to the pro-government Sabah newspaper, also includes news editor Erkan Acar of the Ozgur Dusunce newspaper and news show host Erkan Akkus of the Can Erzincan TV station. Both media organizations are offshoots of Bugun newspaper and Bugun TV, which were taken over by the government in an police raid in October.
     Another journalist wanted by authorities is Busra Erdal, a former columnist and legal reporter for the daily Zaman newspaper, which was taken over by authorities in March for its links to Gulen’s movement.
     The 31 academics, including a number of professors, were detained for questioning in Istanbul and four other provinces, Anadolu reported. Security officials also conducted a raid against the military’s Istanbul-based War Academy, detaining 40 people.
     The government declared a three-month state of emergency and detained more than 13,000 people in the military, judiciary and other institutions following the foiled coup.
     Those rounded up include nearly 9,000 soldiers, 2,100 judges and prosecutors and 1,485 police, according to the president. In addition, tens of thousands of workers have lost their jobs, suspected of possible ties to the coup plotters.
     Erdogan said the government has also closed and seized the assets of 15 universities, 934 other schools, 109 student dormitories, 19 unions, 35 medical institutions as well as over 1,100 other associations and foundations.
     The human rights group Amnesty International said it has obtained evidence that detainees were being subjected to ill-treatment, including beatings and torture.
     Amnesty’s Turkey researcher, Andrew Gardner, told The Associated Press the reported ill-treatment also included verbal abuse, threats, leaving people without food or water for days, and handcuffing them behind their backs for long periods.
     “We’re looking for procedures to be followed, for lawyers to have access, for family members to be informed that their relatives have been detained,” Gardner said. “We need to see proper medical care for people in detention, which isn’t happening either. But also it’s crucial that there are international monitors allowed to enter these places of detention.”
     Berat Albayrak, the energy minister and Erdogan’s son-in-law, said the government was determined to clamp down on the coup plotters but would take utmost care to ensure that anyone not involved in the conspiracy is not harmed.
     “We cannot show mercy to those who oppressed the people,” Albayrak told CNN Turk television in an interview.
     Care will be taken to ensure that the innocent are not harmed, “but it is doubtful this can be ensured 100 percent,” he said. “Some minor difficulties can occur,” he added.
     Turkey’s political leaders accepted an invitation for a meeting at Erdogan’s vast new palace in Ankara, an unprecedented show of unity against the coup attempt. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim joined the nationalist party’s leader, Devlet Bahceli, and Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of pro-secular main opposition party, who had previously boycotted functions at the palace, citing the controversy surrounding the extravagance of the residence and because of what he called Erdogan’s divisive style of governance.
     Also Monday, Anadolu released excerpts from Gen. Hulusi Akar’s testimony to prosecutors on his interaction with members of the faction within the military that conspired to overthrow the government on July 15 and how his efforts to convince the coup plotters failed.
     Akar, the chief of military staff, was held hostage by the coup-plotters and taken to air base after he refused to join the revolt.
     “I told them the path they were in was wrong, that they were sinking in a quagmire, that they would be punished and that they should be manly and end their efforts before there were deaths,” Anadolu quoted Akar as saying. “However, I could not convince them.”
     Akar also quoted one of the alleged coup plotters of saying: “If you like we can arrange for you to speak with our opinion leader Fethullah Gulen.”
     Akar said he responded by berating him, saying: “I won’t talk to anyone.”
     Meanwhile, a high council overseeing the judiciary appointed 342 new judges to two Turkish high courts, days after a judiciary reform — adopted before the attempted coup — came into effect. The judges were appointed to the highest administrative and appeals courts in a move critics say aimed to rid the judiciary of officials who have sometimes blocked Erdogan.
     Associated Press writers Christopher Torchia and Bram Janssen in Istanbul contributed.
     Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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