Turkey detains academics in latest crackdown sweep

Turkey detains academics in latest crackdown sweep
Two professors linked to a human rights activist in detention without charges were swept up in police raids on Friday.
2 min read
16 November, 2018
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Musée d'Orsay [Getty]

Turkish police on Friday detained over a dozen people including academics from two Istanbul universities in the latest crackdown on dissent in the NATO member country.

Professor Betul Tanbay of the prestigious Bogazici University and Professor Turgut Tarhanli of the private Bilgi University were detained for links to the impisoned human rights activist Osman Kavala, the private NTV television reported.

The academics were members of Anadolu Kultur (Anatolian Culture) which Kavala had chaired. He has been in prison for more than a year but has not yet been formally charged.

It was not immediately clear what charges the detained academics faced.

Opposition CHP party MP Sezgin Tanrikulu criticised the detentions on Twitter.

"Again a Friday, again detentions... Those who expect normalisation from this regime should continue to dream".

Kavala, a philanthropist and co-founder of the Iletisim publishing house and who is well-known in intellectual circles in Turkey and abroad, is suspected of "attempting to remove the constitutional order". 

According to his lawyers, Turkish authorities suspect him of having links to the attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 2016, as well as financing anti-government demonstrations during the Gezi protest movement in 2013.

Kavala's Anadolu Kultur NGO which aims to overcome differences within Turkish society through culture and the arts has sought to reach out to neighbouring Armenia. 

Armenians have long sought international recognition for the 1915-1917 killings in the Ottoman era as genocide, which they say left some 1.5 million of their people dead.

Ankara has no diplomatic relations with Yerevan.

Kavala, who has urged the killings be recognised as genocide, is regularly compared by pro-government Turkish media to the liberal US billionaire George Soros.

Friday's arrests are also part of a wider mass crackdown on dissent that has seen around 80,000 people arrested over alleged links to the plotters of the 2016 coup attempt. 

An additional 150,000 people have also been suspended or sacked from the public sector, including judges, soldiers and police. 

Ankara accuses the US-based cleric and former Erdogan ally Fethullah Gulen of orchestrating the coup attempt. He denies the plot that saw 250 killed, excluding the plotters. 

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