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Turkey Detains Prominent Academics Linked to Jailed Activist

Turkish police on Friday detained over a dozen people including academics from two prestigious Istanbul universities linked with an association led by imprisoned human rights activist Osman Kavala, a state-run news agency reported.

Police issued arrest warrants for 20 people as part of an investigation into Anadolu Kultur (Anatolian Culture) whose chairman Kavala has been jailed for more than a year but not formally charged, Anadolu news agency said.

Twelve had been rounded up so far in simultaneous raids at several addresses early Friday, it added.

Professor Betul Tanbay of the prestigious Bogazici University and Professor Turgut Tarhanli, deputy dean of the private Bilgi University, were among the detainees.

The academics were linked to Anadolu Kultur.

The operation also targeted Anadolu Kultur executives including deputy chairman Yigit Ekmekci, as well as board member Ali Hakan Altinay, coordinator Asena Gunal and consultants Cigdem Mater and Meltem Aslan, the agency said.

It was not immediately clear what charges the detainees face.

‘Again detentions’

Opposition CHP party lawmaker Sezgin Tanrikulu criticized the detentions on Twitter.

“Again a Friday, again detentions… Those who expect normalization from this regime should continue to dream,” he said referring to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party).

Among those who lashed out at the detentions were British journalist and writer Thomas de Waal‏, Turkey-based freelance journalist David Lepeska and senior Reuters correspondent Humeyra Pamuk:

Kavala, a philanthropist and co-founder of the Iletisim publishing house and well-known in intellectual circles in Turkey and abroad, is accused of “attempting to remove the constitutional order” and “attempting to overthrow the government”.

According to his lawyers, Turkish authorities suspect him of having links to the failed July 2016 coup attempt, as well as financing anti-government demonstrations as part of the nation-wide Gezi Park protests in 2013.

Kavala was arrested on October 18, 2017, before being remanded in custody on November 1.

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.

Ankara has no diplomatic relations with Armenia partly due to the dispute over the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, which Yerevan considers a “genocide”.

Kavala, who has urged the killings be recognized as “genocide”, is regularly compared by pro-government Turkish media to the liberal U.S. billionaire George Soros.

Turkish authorities have launched a mass crackdown and arrested more than 50,000 people over alleged links to the plotters of the 2016 coup attempt.


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