Turkish police detain newspaper editor for ‘insulting Erdogan’

Today’s Zaman editor-in-chief Bulent Kenes was detained at the newspaper’s offices by plainclothes police

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Turkish police on Friday detained the editor of a leading English-language daily newspaper on suspicion of “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a series of tweets.

Today’s Zaman editor-in-chief Bulent Kenes was detained at the newspaper’s offices by plainclothes police who raided the building late in the evening and took him away in a car, the daily said.

Samanyolu, a television channel close to the newspaper aired live coverage of his departure in police custody.

Hundreds of staff members could be seen crowding round Kenes in solidarity as the police took him away to Istanbul’s main Caglayan courthouse.

Clutching placards reading “free media will not be silenced!” Kenes’ supporters had also stood around him during the dramatic scenes inside the newspaper’s offices as he awaited his detention.

An Istanbul judge had earlier agreed to a request by prosecutors to detain Kenes amid an ongoing investigation into tweets sent in August that allegedly insulted Erdogan.

Kenes had in June received 21-month suspended jail sentence in a separate case on similar charges of insulting Erdogan.

The cases come amid growing concern over the spiraling numbers of journalists, bloggers and ordinary people who are being taken to court on charges of insulting Erdogan and other top officials.

In another case that has garnered huge attention, model and former Miss Turkey beauty queen Merve Buyuksarac went on trial in May on charges of insulting the president.

Today’s Zaman, which is the English version of the Turkish language Zaman daily, is close to the movement of the Pennsylvania-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan who has become his sworn enemy.

Following stunning corruption allegations in 2013 against Erdogan’s inner circle, thousands of followers of Gulen were purged from the police force and judiciary.

Media rights groups -- which have long criticized Turkey for locking up journalists -- have expressed concern over a further decline in press freedoms since Erdogan became president.

Erdogan caused outrage in the run-up to Turkey’s June 7 elections by saying the secular Cumhuriyet newspaper editor-in-chief Can Dundar would “pay a heavy price” over a front-page story which it said proved Turkey had sent arms to rebels in Syria.

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