17 Turkish journalists charged over 'terror group links'

ANKARA • Turkey has held 17 journalists on charges of "terror group" membership as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Western critics to "mind your own business" over a relentless crackdown following a failed coup.

But in a goodwill gesture two weeks after the July 15 coup bid, Mr Erdogan also announced he was withdrawing thousands of lawsuits against individuals accused of insulting him.

Turkey has detained more than 18,000 people over the attempted coup which has been blamed on United States-based preacher Fethullah Gulen - a charge he denies - with the relentless crackdown sparking warnings from Brussels that Ankara's European Union membership bid may be in danger.

Seventeen Turkish journalists remanded in custody by an Istanbul court over alleged links to Mr Gulen woke up in jails across the city yesterday as international concern grows over the targeting of reporters in the wake of the failed coup.

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 veteran journalist Nazli Ilicak, as well as Ms Hanim Busra Erdal, the former correspondent for the pro-Gulen Zaman daily. Among those freed was prominent commentator Bulent Mumay, who was given a rapturous welcome by supporters.

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

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 31, 2016, with the headline '17 Turkish journalists charged over 'terror group links''. Print Edition | Subscribe