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Turkish Opposition Journalist Detained Over Tweets Criticizing President

© REUTERS / Umit BektasTurkish President Tayyip Erdogan (C) looks on after arriving at Esenboga Airport, in Ankara, Turkey, June 8, 2015
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (C) looks on after arriving at Esenboga Airport, in Ankara, Turkey, June 8, 2015 - Sputnik International
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The arrest of the editor-in-chief of an opposition newspaper over allegations of “insulting” the Turkish president via twitter caused public backlash around the world, with some calling it an example of a “government crackdown” on freedom of speech.

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Bulent Kenes, editor of English-language newspaper Today's Zaman, based in Istanbul, was taken into custody for reportedly defaming Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A local court judge issued a warrant for the arrest of Kenes on Friday.

The charge? “Insulting” the president in a series of tweets.

Law enforcement apprehended Kenes at the newspaper’s headquarters. The event was televised live, and a crowd of supporters gathered in front of the building with signs reading "Free media cannot be silenced!"

Kenes denied the accusations, saying that he was instead exercising free speech. Despite the arrest, he insisted he would not stop criticizing President Erdogen.

"I will continue to oppose turning this country into an open-air prison and an unlawful, oppressive and arbitrary administration," he said, according to the Telegraph.

The Turkish Journalists' Union released a statement, condemning the court’s decision as a violation of human rights.

“Referring Today’s Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş to a court for arrest ahead of elections is another example of intimidation of the media. We hope these moves which harm Turkish democracy end,” the statement read.

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Mahmut Tanal, the member of Republican People’s Party (CHP), called the move “unacceptable.”

“Arbitrarily summoning members of the press to testify, detaining them and arresting them are against the principle of freedom of expression. Although the obstacles before fundamental rights and the freedom of expression should be lifted, arresting some members of the press is unacceptable,” he said, according to Today’s Zaman.

US and European officials also expressed outrage. Graham Watson, president of the Alliance of Liberal and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Party, tweeted his support for Kenes.

Turkey has often been the subject of outrage over its harsh treatment of journalists. A defamation law which was rarely used in the past has more recently been cited in dozens of cases related to criticizing the Turkish president.

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