Turkish authorities detained on Friday Akin Atalay, chairman of the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet. Atalay was arriving in Turkey from Germany when he was arrested at the Ataturk Airport. The chairman is the last one held from the Cumhuriyet newspaper since the failed coup in July.
The government arrested other staff members on October 31 awaiting trial. The Cumhuriyet personnel and chairman were arrested for being linked to Kurdish militants and Fethullah Gulen, the groups behind the coup, according to the government. But it seems that the real reason for Atalay’s arrest is a government’s move to have a trustee inside the newspaper.
Atalay had a standing order issued because of his relation with the Kurdish and Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based Muslim cleric that supposedly masterminded the failed attempt to take over the Turkish government by force. Editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu, cartoonist Musa Kart and other members of Cumhuriyet are waiting for a trial to defend themselves against the government’s accusations.
Adalet Atalay was with his husband at the airport when officers detained him, and she claimed that the action is not against Atalay but a strategy to have a trustee inside the opposition newspaper.
Akin Atalay’s lawyer stated that Cumhuriyet has been warning since the beginning that was have been done to the newspaper staff is a political operation and not a legal one. He said there is no legal basis for the personnel arrests.
After the failed coup, 170 media outlets and scores of businesses have been shut down over alleged ties with terrorist organizations. The Turkish government has arrested around 37,000 people, and more than 100,000 individuals have been dismissed or suspended from government posts, including soldiers, judges, teachers, journalists and Kurdish leaders.
The Interior Ministry said in an online statement that another 370 suspects related to terrorism had been confirmed. 153 of the organizations were linked to the Fethullah Gulen network and 190 to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is outlawed to the the government’s eyes. Other eight groups were related to the Islamic State and 19 to a banned party, the far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army-Front.
Turkey faces criticism after arresting and firing members of the government opposition
Turkey has been heavily criticized because of its actions against opposition members and its allies after the failed coup. Government measures to discourage opposition to the regime are considered a purge that is taking place during the state of emergency declared after July events in the country. The first arrests after the putsch were meant to eliminate the Gulen network but have extended to the country’s opposition.
An EU report this week accused Turkey of its actions against people opposing the current government ruling the country. The EU’s top enlargement official stated that the country’s candidacy in the European Union is at risk.
A diplomat in Brussels said that Turkey could be left out of the block but made it clear that not just yet. Not until EU leaders meet in December. Another diplomat said that Turkey has to be sanctioned for its actions against opposition members, but a decision must be made with “cool heads,” reports Reuters.
Turkey has a role in the region, and if the EU insists on how they should handle their domestic affairs, the bloc could risk taking a step back on migration from the Middle East to Europe.
On Monday, the European Union foreign ministers will discuss Turkey’s situation and the government’s attack on democracy but still, EU diplomats want to keep an open dialogue with Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan. Talks with Erdogan are essential to the migration issue in Europe and the fight against the Islamic State in the Middle East.
Austria, Luxemburg, and some European lawmakers want to suspend Turkey talks after the numerous arrests of opposition members even after the bloc promised to strengthen the relationship with the country in exchange for its collaboration in reducing migration from its territory.