ANKARA — Turkey’s president on Monday rejected the European Union’s criticism of police raids on media organizations in the country, telling the 28-member bloc to “keep your opinions to yourselves.”
The EU has criticized Sunday’s police raids, which targeted a newspaper and a television station affiliated with the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen — a one-time ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has turned into one of his biggest critics.
Erdogan has accused Gulen’s followers within the police and judiciary of being behind corruption allegations that rattled his government last year and has vowed to go after his group.
More than two dozen people, including a chief editor, journalists, television producers and scriptwriters, were detained in Sunday’s raids on suspicion of “using intimidation and threats” to try to take control of state power. The targets included the Istanbul headquarters of Zaman newspaper and Samanyolu TV.
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said Monday that seven of the suspects were released after questioning.
He said everyone who was taken into custody will be questioned for their alleged involvement in false accusations and fabricated evidence that led to a police crackdown on a rival Islamic group on charges of al-Qaida links in 2010.
Arinc said some of the detained are suspected of planting evidence to incriminate the group, while the media outlets were allegedly used to spread the claims.
The Gulen movement rejects the allegation.
The EU said Sunday’s raids were incompatible with media freedoms and suggested they could affect Turkey’s longstanding EU membership bid.
In a speech in northwest Turkey on Monday, Erdogan called the arrests a domestic security issue and said he didn’t care if the raids affect the membership bid.
“The issue is not one of media freedoms,” Erdogan said. “Those who threaten our national security — and it doesn’t matter if they are members of the press — will get the response they deserve.”
“Whether the EU takes us in or not, we have no such worry. You keep your opinions to yourselves.”
Human Rights Watch said Monday the detentions would harm media freedom and free speech in Turkey.
“The timing and the limited evidence made public suggests these arrests are politically motivated, not based on reasonable suspicion of a criminal offense,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, the New York-based organization’s senior researcher for Turkey.
SUZAN FRASER, Associated Press