ANKARA: Turkish authorities on Friday widened their sweeping post-coup crackdown to the business sector, rounding up three tycoons as a score of detained journalists were marched into court by police to hear their fate.
As the number of detentions since the failed putsch passed 18,000, the European Union’s enlargement commissioner implicitly warned that the bloc would freeze Turkey’s accession talks if the crackdown violated the rule of law.
The deadly July 15 rebellion unsuccessfully tried to unseat President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has since launched a radical purge against anyone suspected of complicity.
Turkish authorities blame the coup on US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen and now seek to weed out his followers from all aspects of Turkish life, including the military, legal system, media and education.
An Agence France-Presse reporter saw 21 journalists gripped by police and marched into an Istanbul courtroom, where prosecutors requested that 20 of them be remanded in custody and one released under judicial supervision.
They were among dozens of journalists and former newspaper staff hit with arrest warrants earlier this week under a three-month state of emergency, to the anger of rights groups.
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”.
The probe into coup plotters widened its scope to the financing of Gulen’s activities in Turkey, with what appeared to be the first major arrests targeting the business world.
Security forces in the central city of Kayseri detained the chairman of the prominent family-owned Boydak Holding company, Mustafa Boydak, and two other top executives, state-run Anadolu news agency said.
Erdogan, meanwhile, lashed out at a top US general who had expressed concerns about military relations after the putsch.
Quoted by US media, US Central Command chief General Joseph Votel said Thursday that the coup bid and subsequent roundup of dozens of generals could affect American cooperation with Turkey.
“You are taking the side of coup plotters instead of thanking this state for defeating the coup attempt,” Erdogan said in angry remarks at a military centre in Golbasi outside Ankara, where air strikes left dozens dead during the coup.
Votel swiftly denied any link to the coup, however.
“Any reporting that I had anything to do with the recent unsuccessful coup attempt in Turkey is unfortunate and completely inaccurate,” he said in a statement.
“Turkey has been an extraordinary and vital partner in the region for many years. We appreciate Turkey’s continuing cooperation and look forward to our future partnership in the counter-ISIL fight,” Votel said, referring to the Islamic State group.
Following a shake-up of the military on Thursday after nearly half of its 358 generals were sacked, the top brass of the reshuffled armed forces met Erdogan at his presidential palace in Ankara.
Ninety-nine colonels have been promoted to generals and admirals, although Chief of staff General Hulusi Akar—who was held hostage during the coup attempt—stayed in his post along with the heads of the navy, land and air forces.