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Turkey charges opposition daily staff over 'coup links'

The latest arrests will raise further concerns over press freedom in Turkey where scores of journalists are behind bars

A newsstand bearing a copy of opposition daily newspaper Sozcu on 20 May in Istanbul (AFP)

A Turkish court formally arrested two staffers from opposition daily Sozcu late Friday over alleged links to last year's failed coup, the paper and state media reported.

The latest arrests will raise further concerns over press freedom in Turkey where scores of journalists are behind bars. 

Gokmen Ulu, a correspondent in the western city of Izmir, and Mediha Olgun, an executive in charge of Sozcu's website, were charged with "deliberately and willingly giving help to a terrorist organisation," state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Turkey refers to the movement led by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen as the "Fethullah Terrorist Organisation" (FETO), and claim he and his followers launched the failed coup last July.

Ulu was also charged with "facilitating the physical assault and assassination of the president," Anadolu said. 

Yonca Yucekaleli, a finance executive at the paper who had also been detained, was released by the court, the agency said, while charges against Ulu and Olgun of belonging to a terror group were dropped.

The paper, whose name means "spokesman," is both fiercely anti-government and ultra-secularist and is one of the country's bestselling papers. 

Its slogan is: "If #Sozcu is silent, Turkey will be silent."

'Dark day for journalism' 

The paper hit back over the arrests, with its front page showing images of the three staffers under the headline "Dark day for journalism and Turkey's media".

Ulu and Olgun were first detained on 19 May over an article published on the day of the coup which gave details of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's holiday in the Aegean resort of Marmaris along with pictures of the hotel where he was staying, Anadolu said.

An arrest warrant for the daily's owner, Burak Akbay, was issued on the same day, but he remains abroad.

Writing on Twitter, Bulent Tezcan, spokesman for the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), said the claims against the paper were "mud that would not stick".

Sozcu is on occasion vehemently anti-Erdogan, and its angry front pages are regarded with suspicion by some liberal Turks critical of Erdogan.

It is the second opposition daily to be targeted after Cumhuriyet, which saw 20 staffers charged under the state of emergency imposed a few days after the attempted putsch in July.

According to the P24 press freedom website, 165 journalists are behind bars in Turkey, most of whom were detained during the emergency, which has been renewed three times.


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