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Turkey arrests reporters as Erdogan tells critics to 'mind your business'

Seventeen journalists held hours after Turkish president says those worried about fate of coup plotters 'cannot be our friends'
Erdogan said Western allies had deserted Turkey in its hour of need (AA)

Turkey on Saturday arrested 17 journalists on charges of membership of a "terror group" as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told western critics to "mind your own business" over a crackdown following a failed coup.

In a speech at his presidential palace late Friday, Erdogan angrily denounced the criticism and accused the West of deserting Turkey in its hour of need.

"Some people give us advice. They say they are worried. Mind your own business! Look at your own deeds," Erdogan said.

"Not a single person has come to give condolences either from the European Union... or from the West."

"Those countries or leaders who are not worried about Turkey's democracy, the lives of our people, its future - while being so worried about the fate of the putschists - cannot be our friends," he growled.

The Turkish government has detained more than 18,000 people over the attempted 15 July putsch which it blames on the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, with the crackdown sparking warnings from Brussels that Ankara's EU membership bid may be in danger.

The 17 journalists were remanded in custody overnight by an Istanbul court, on suspicion of links to the Gulen movement. 

The arrests come as international concern grows over allegations of the Turkish government targeting reporters in the wake of the putsch. 

Twenty-one journalists had appeared before a judge in hearings lasting until midnight on Friday. Four were then freed but 17 were placed under pre-trial arrest, charged with "membership of a terror group", the state-run Anadolu news agency said.

Those held include Nazli Ilicak as well as the former correspondent for the pro-Gulen Zaman daily Hanim Busra Erdal.

Among those freed was prominent commentator Bulent Mumay, who was given a rapturous welcome by supporters.

"I could never have imagined being accused of such a thing. It was a madness. It's not right to arrest journalists - this country should not make the same mistakes again," he said, quoted by the Dogan news agency.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu defended the arrests, saying it was necessary to distinguish between coup plotters and those "who are engaged in real journalism".

The president also announced that as a gesture of goodwill after the coup he was dropping hundreds of court cases against individuals accused of insulting him.

"I am going to withdraw all the cases regarding the disrespectful insults made against me," said Erdogan.

Earlier this year, officials had said more than 2,000 people were being prosecuted on charges of insulting the president.

But with concern growing about the sheer numbers rounded-up in the post-coup purge, EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn said he needed to see "black-and-white facts about how these people are treated".

"And if there is even the slightest doubt that the (treatment) is improper, then the consequences will be inevitable," he told German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

One of the very few EU officials of any rank to visit Turkey in the wake of the coup was Alan Duncan, a junior minister within Britain's foreign office.

But Erdogan on Saturday went to meet Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdulrahman al-Thani of Qatar, one of Turkey's closest allies.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Turkey had succeeded in eradicating all elements linked to Gulen from the military after sacking nearly half of its generals following the failed coup.

"We are going to make our armed forces stronger and we are going to work towards making this country more secure," he said.

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