Istanbul (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Turkish police have launched a media operation to detain 31 people, including media figures and former police chiefs, simultaneously raiding addresses in 13 provinces across the country.
The raid on daily Zaman occurred at 7.15 a.m. local time, as supporters of the newspaper stood guard in front of the office building upon rumors that such an operation would take place.
Police returned to the newspaper's office at around 2.00 p.m. on Dec. 14: Zaman editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanlı was taken to police station after being shown the notification of his detention.
As the raids were being carried out in the morning, the crowd outside the Zaman offices chanted slogans and held banners reading, "The free press cannot be silenced." Dumanlı also made a speech, broadcast live on television, defiantly calling on the police to detain him.
Samanyolu Media Group Head Hidayet Karaca and a producer, scriptwriter and director were also detained, as well as Tufan Ergüder, the former head of the Istanbul Police Department's anti-terror branch and the former head of the Hakkari Police Department.
The Istanbul Public Prosecutor's Office has released a public statement, giving the list of individuals to be detained in the operation.
"The detentions have been ordered [for the people on the list] in order to take their testimonies on charges of founding and directing an armed terror organization, being a member of this organization, and engaging in forgery and slander," the statement said.
Zaman and Samanyolu are known for ties to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who has been at odds with the Turkish government, particularly since last December. The government accuses the Gülen movement of trying to stage a "coup" via a large corruption probe that broke in December 2013, which included a number of former Cabinet ministers and their relatives, along with many state officials.
For the past year, the government has been waging a campaign against the Islamic spiritual leader Fethullah Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. In the pro-government press, even the word Pennsylvania has become synonymous with a conspiracy to create what is called a "parallel" state by overthrowing the elected government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, former Prime Minister and now President.
The Gulen-affiliated movement counters that these accusations are simply a smokescreen to cover up corruption in high places, including the president's own family. For the past 12 months, suspected Gulenists in the bureaucracy have been let go from key positions and laws enacted that will shut down a chain of university tutorial colleges affiliated to the movement.