February 2, 2018 / 11:39 AM / 3 months ago

Turkey orders 13 detained for online opposition to Syria offensive, newspaper reports

ISTANBUL, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Turkish authorities on Friday ordered the detention of 13 people for supporting the national medical association online, the newspaper Hurriyet reported, after the organisation publicly opposed a military campaign in Syria.

A prosecutor this week ordered the detention of 11 senior members of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), including its chairman, after the organisation criticised the incursion into Syria’s Afrin, saying “No to war, peace immediately”. President Tayyip Erdogan accused the body of treason.

More than 300 people have been detained over social media posts that “criticised, opposed or misrepresented” the Afrin campaign, which started nearly two weeks ago, the government has said.

Among the 13 people targeted by the latest detention warrants was the gay rights activist Ali Erol, who had tweeted “War is a public health problem. #WeStandWithTTB”, his organisation said. Another person was detained after tweeting “War is death, destruction, blood and tears. #NoToWar”, other local media reported.

Authorities also raided the residence of a lawyer who had publicly read the statement from the medical association, a lawmaker from the main opposition said.

“They don’t want to let anyone breathe,” Baris Yarkadas, of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), said on Twitter.

The crackdown on some of Turkey’s top doctors has drawn international criticism from rights group Amnesty International and the World Medical Association, which has called for their protection and an immediate end to the legal proceedings.

Erdogan’s critics see the latest arrests as emblematic of the purge that has followed a failed 2016 coup. More than 50,000 people have been arrested and 150,000 sacked or suspended from their jobs, moves the government says are necessary given the multiple security threats Turkey faces.

Rights groups and some of Turkey’s Western allies fear Erdogan is using the crackdown to stifle dissent and crush his opponents. Freedom House, a Washington-based watchdog, downgraded Turkey to “not free” from “partly free” in an annual report last month.

Turkey launched its Afrin operation, dubbed “Operation Olive Branch”, nearly two weeks ago to target Kurdish YPG fighters near its southern border. Turkey sees the militia as a terrorist group and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Separately, authorities on Thursday ordered the detention of another 13 people in three provinces for protesting against the offensive, police said. (Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen and Tuvan Gumrukcu, editing by David Dolan, Larry King)

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