Employees of a newspaper known for its favorable coverage of the Gülenist terror group (FETÖ), and favorable portrayal of the PKK, were questioned yesterday by prosecutors. Eleven staff members of the Cumhuriyet newspaper, including the editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu and columnists, were detained early Monday morning in Istanbul and the capital, Ankara.
Istanbul's chief prosecutor's office announced that executives of Cumhuriyet and its employees were "supportive" of PKK and FETÖ, two factions among the most active terrorist groups in Turkey and pursued coverage of "legitimizing calls for a coup" before the July 15 coup attempt blamed on FETÖ. The detentions were a culmination of a criminal inquiry started in August on charges of "committing crimes for FETÖ and the PKK," while the suspects have not been accused of being active members of either group. Akın Atalay, CEO of the company that owns Cumhuriyet, remains at large and authorities said he left for Germany one day before the operation. Can Dündar, former editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet, is also wanted, having already been accused in a second FETÖ-related case.
Cumhuriyet, meaning "republic" in Turkish, traces back to the early Republic of Turkey, and its readership has long been staunch proponents of the secular ideology that was prevalent among the country's elite of the past. Nevertheless, it was criticized in the recent years for its publishing policy, tilting to outright support for the terrorist groups. Its staff first faced criticism, and then a lawsuit, for coverage of a hostage crisis in 2015, during which a prosecutor was killed by members of the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), a known terrorist group. A photo of Mehmet Selim Kiraz with a gun to his head in front of a masked terrorist against the backdrop of DHKP-C symbols was splashed across the front page of the Cumhuriyet, fueling claims of terror propaganda. Last year, the newspaper released photos of supply trucks belonging to the country's intelligence agency claiming Turkey had used the trucks to supply arms to Daesh in Syria. Can Dündar, Cumhuriyet's then editor-in-chief, and the newspaper's reporter, Erdem Gül, were detained, but later released by court pending trial, while a criminal inquiry says the trucks that were stopped by officers and prosecutors were an attempt of FETÖ to slander the Turkish government. In recent months, especially in the wake of operations to round up FETÖ members blamed for three coup attempts since 2013, the Cumhuriyet became a mouthpiece defending the terrorist group.
The newspaper is also a fierce opponent of anti-terror operations against the PKK, especially the operations against politicians linked to the terrorist group. The newspaper also draws public ire for interviews with senior leaders of the PKK, including one held in a PKK hideout in Northern Iraq that mostly conveyed threats against Turkey.
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