Turkey Media Arrests: Erdogan Rejects EU Criticism

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TurkeyArrest1ISTANBUL (BBC) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lashed out at the European Union (EU) after it criticized the mass arrest of opposition journalists at the weekend.

“The EU should mind its own business and keep its own opinions to itself,” Erdogan said, denying that the raids had infringed press freedom.

EU leaders have said the arrests were incompatible with “European values.”

At least 24 journalists said to have close links with a US-based cleric are being held for plotting to seize power.

Sunday’s raids targeted the Zaman newspaper and Samanyolu TV channel, which are described as close to Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, the spiritual leader of the Hizmet movement.

A former ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Gulen — who lives in self-imposed exile – is accused of running a “parallel state” within Turkey.

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In a statement, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said any move towards membership depended on “full respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights.”

The raids and arrests “are incompatible with the freedom of media, which is a core principle of democracy,” the pair said in a statement.

But on Monday Erdogan responded: “What do you [Europe] know about these operations to feel yourself competent to make such comments?”

“We have no concern about what the EU might say, whether the EU accepts us as members or not.”

He added that the raids had been a necessary response to “dirty operations” by subvert the Turkish state.

Etyen Mahcupyan, chief adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu, told the BBC: “We have evidence that there was wrongdoing by some people in the Gulen movement. And we have evidence that these journalists are in the Gulen movement.”

The raids come days after Erdogan pledged a fresh campaign against Gulen’s supporters.

Over the past year Erdogan — whose Islamist-rooted AK Party has won three general elections since 2002 — has accused so-called “Gulenists” in police and the judiciary of using corruption inquiries to try to topple him.

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