Turkey Launches Crackdown on President’s Opponents

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Crackdown on Supporters of U.S.-Based Cleric Gülen Is Seen as Bid to Tighten Grip on Power Before Elections in June.

Ekrem Dumanli, editor of Istanbul’s Zaman newspaper, was among dozens detained Sunday

Police detained the editor of Turkey’s largest-selling newspaper and several other prominent figures, signaling a new crackdown on one of the president’s political rivals before June elections.

In a series of raids on Sunday in 13 cities, authorities detained 27 people accused of forming an illegal organization to seize control of the state, according to state-run news agency Anadolu.

The detentions marked the latest salvo in a battle between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ally-turned-foe Fethullah Gülen, a U.S.-based Turkish cleric accused by the president of seeking to overthrow the government.

Mr. Gülen has been living in Pennsylvania since 1999 and denies that he is plotting against the government. He fled Turkey after secularist prosecutors charged him with seeking to overthrow the state—a case that was dismissed in 2006.

The most high-profile detentions on Sunday were at media outlets close to Mr. Gülen: Ekrem Dumanli, editor in chief of Zaman daily, and Samanyolu Media Group Chairman Hidayet Karaca. Both organizations were founded by followers of Mr. Gülen.

Word of the impending arrests had leaked on social media Thursday and the media bosses were taken into custody Sunday live on television.

“This is officially a coup against freedom, free thought, free speech,” Mr. Dumanli said in front of hundreds of supporters at Zaman’s Istanbul headquarters, hours before police escorted him away.

The U.S. urged Turkey not to violate media freedom and judicial independence, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The Alliance for Shared Values, an umbrella organization coordinating activities by Mr. Gülen’s followers in the U.S. and representing the cleric’s views, said the arrests were politically motivated.

“Such actions taint Turkey’s image around the world and raise the growing authoritarianism of the Erdogan regime to a new level,” the group said.

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