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US, EU denounce arrests of journalists in Turkey

AFP , Reuters , Sunday 14 Dec 2014
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The United States expressed concern Sunday over the arrests in Turkey of more than two dozen leading media figures, in lightning raids targeting perceived opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On Sunday, Turkish police raided media outlets close to the US -based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen and detained 24 people.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington was "closely following" reports of the raids and arrests.

"Media freedom, due process and judicial independence are key elements in every healthy democracy and are enshrined in the Turkish constitution," she added.

"As Turkey's friend and ally, we urge the Turkish authorities to ensure their actions do not violate these core values and Turkey's own democratic foundations."

Meanwhile, the European Union said in an unusually strongly worded statement on Sunday that Turkish police raids on media outlets are incompatible with media freedom and run counter to European values.

"The police raids and arrests of a number of journalists and media representatives in Turkey today are incompatible with the freedom of media, which is a core principle of democracy," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said in the joint statement.

"This operation goes against the European values and standards Turkey aspires to be part of," they said.

Among those arrested was Ekrem Dumanli, the editor-in-chief of the Zaman daily, Turkey's largest newspaper, which is closely linked to Gulen.

The group also includes an executive of Samanyolu television, seen as close to Gulen, as well as a TV director, producers, scriptwriters and some police officers.

Arrest warrants were issued for a total of 31 people, the official Anatolia news agency reported.

Pennsylvania-based Gulen, 73, is the spiritual leader of the Hizmet (Service) movement, which controls media outlets, schools and cultural centers.

He was a key backer of Erdogan before falling out with him over the government's plans to shut down his schools.

As in almost all previous raids -- which targeted mostly police officers suspected of backing Gulen -- the details of the swoop were leaked by a mysterious Twitter user named Fuat Avni before it was even carried out.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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