VETERAN TURKISH JOURNALIST FREED AFTER CRITICISM
March 24 2008
ISTANBUL: A veteran Turkish journalist, rounded up as part of a probe
into a shadowy anti-government network, was released yesterday after
a storm of criticism over his detention, the Anatolia news agency said.
Ilhan Selcuk, 83, chief columnist of the secularist Cumhuriyet
daily and a fierce critic of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s
Islamist-rooted government, was however banned from leaving Turkey
until the probe is over, Anatolia quoted his lawyer Akin Atalay
Selcuk was arrested in a pre-dawn operation on Friday along with 11
other people. Four others were also released yesterday, Anatolia said.
They were questioned as part of an investigation into a group
of suspected ultra-nationalists who reportedly plotted unrest and
political assassinations in Turkey in a bid to discredit and eventually
topple the government.
Selcuk’s arrest unleashed accusations from civic groups and opposition
parties that the government is using the probe to intimidate critics
at a time of simmering political tensions.
Some accused the government of seeking vengeance against secularist
forces after a prosecutor asked the Constitutional Court last week
to outlaw the ruling Justice and Development Party for undermining
Turkey’s secular system.
The probe was launched in June after the discovery of explosives in
an Istanbul house.
Retired soldiers, journalists, lawyers and underworld figures are
among 39 people who have so far been jailed, awaiting trial.
Officials have made no statement on the investigation and prosecutors
are yet to draw up an indictment to detail the charges and start
The Turkish media, citing unnamed sources, say police are investigating
whether the suspects were involved in acts of political violence
aiming to discredit the government.
This would include the murders of ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant
Dink, Italian Catholic priest Andrea Santoro and a senior judge,
Reports claim some of the jailed suspects also planned to assassinate
2006 Nobel literature laureate Orhan Pamuk, a pro-government journalist
and several Kurdish politicians.
The media largely considers the probe as an onslaught against the
"deep state" – a term used to describe members of the security forces
acting outside the law to preserve what they consider Turkey’s best