Turkey media bosses to be charged with ‘terror group membership’

EU condemned the arrests as going “against the European values”

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Two anti-government Turkish media chiefs arrested during controversial weekend raids that have strained ties with the European Union are to be charged with membership of a terrorist group, reports said Thursday.

Ekrem Dumanli, the editor-in-chief of the Zaman daily newspaper and Hidayet Karaca, the head of Samanyolu TV (STV), were being interrogated by Istanbul judges to decide whether to remand them in custody ahead of trial.

Early morning raids on Sunday resulted in the arrest of 30 journalists, scriptwriters and police who are deemed loyalists of the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's number one foe.

Erdogan accuses Gulen, who lives in exile in the United States, of seeking to run a “parallel state” and of being the source of sensational corruption allegations that broke a year ago on December 17.

Zaman, Turkey's biggest-selling daily, and Samanyolu, which produces some hugely popular TV dramas, are both closely linked to Gulen.

Of the 30 arrested, prosecutors have asked for 16 to be charged with the other 14 now freed. Of the 16, prosecutors want 12 to be remanded in custody and four released on bail.

The 16, including Dumanli and Karaca, are being charged with “becoming a member of an armed terrorist organisation”, the official Anatolia news agency reported, without specifying which group.

They are also being charged with “using intimidation, threats and deception to deprive individuals of their liberty, as well as slander,” it added.

The charges are set to be officially confirmed later in the day.

Dumanli had earlier been filmed raising his arms in defiance as he was led in by plain clothes officers to a hospital for a check-up.

According to the Dogan news agency, Karaca refused to answer the judge's questions in the hearing, complaining that he was not impartial.

The European Union has condemned the arrests as going “against the European values” but Erdogan has struck back, telling the bloc to “mind their own business” in a row that risks permanently damaging relations.

The charging of Dumanli and Karaca had been flagged in advance by a mystery Twitter user named Fuat Avni who had also warned of the impending raids days before they took place.

The identity of the micro-blogger is unknown, with some speculating that the person could be a renegade member of Erdogan's inner circle.

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