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UN's Ban deeply concerned by ongoing purge, arrests in Turkey

UN chief 'underscored his deep concern about the scope of continuing widespread arrests, detentions and suspensions'
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York earlier this year. (AA)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday expressed deep concern about the ongoing wave of arrests in Turkey since the attempted coup.

Ban told Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu during a telephone conversation that "credible evidence" must be presented swiftly so that the detainees' legal status can be determined by a court of law.

More than 15,000 people including military officials were detained during the massive sweep that followed the 15 July failed coup, and at least 8,000 remain in custody.

On Wednesday, Turkish authorities issued arrest warrants for dozens of journalists, including 47 former staff members of the Zaman daily, one of the country's biggest newspapers.

The paper is known to have strong links to the Gulenist movement and the journalists were removed from their posts in April when the government seized control of the newspaper, accusing it of being part of a "terror organisation".

Turkish officials said the arrests were aimed at those with "intimate knowledge" of the Gulen network, but on Wednesday Abdullah Bozkurt, a former Ankara bureau chief for Today's Zaman, told Middle East Eye that the arrests were about censoring journalism and had "nothing to do with battling the coup or terrorism".

In his conversation with the foreign minister, Ban "referred to worrying reports of mistreatment and abuse of some of those who are still in custody and their detention conditions, and underscored his deep concern about the scope of continuing widespread arrests, detentions and suspensions," UN spokesman Farhan Haq said.

"Credible evidence on those under investigation has to be presented swiftly to the judicial system so that legal determination could be made before the court of law," he added.

The UN chief said that while he recognised the "extraordinary circumstances prevailing in the country following the coup attempt," he expected Turkey to uphold fundamental rights and to adhere to its international obligations.

Ban has spoken out repeatedly on the need for Turkey to respect freedom of speech and assembly and to uphold due process.

The UN chief "trusts that the government and people of Turkey will transform this moment of uncertainty into a moment of unity, preserving Turkey's democracy," the spokesman added.

Ealier, Bozkurt, who said he left Turkey on Tuesday after receiving death threats, said he was close to many of those now under arrest.

"The most troublesome thing for me is to see young journalists who covered police, judiciary or defence matters now being arrested," he said via email.

Bozkurt told MEE that many of those targeted had only recently begun working at the paper. "These are junior reporters who have started on their paths in journalism careers, yet they were fired without severance pay or compensation after unlawful seizure of their media groups by the government.

Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, meanwhile, warned that the crackdown and purge unleashed by the coup attempt is not over.


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