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Turkish news agency says it was seized by government

Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen is pictured at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania September 24, 2013. REUTERS/Selahattin Sevi/Zaman Daily via Cihan News Agency

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish authorities have seized control of the Cihan news agency, the agency said, widening the crackdown against supporters of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, an influential foe of President Tayyip Erdogan.

Cihan said on its website late on Monday an Istanbul court would appoint an administrator to run the agency on a request from a state prosecutor. The action comes days after authorities seized control of the leading Gulen-linked newspaper, Zaman.

In Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday that the action against Cihan was “just another example of an unnecessary crackdown on journalism” and urged the Turkish government to ensure full respect for due process.

The seizure of Zaman prompted international alarm about press freedom in Turkey and was discussed at Monday’s European Union summit with Ankara over the migration crisis.

France’s foreign minister said the decision to seize control of Zaman, Turkey’s largest newspaper by circulation, was “unacceptable” and went against European values.

Both Cihan and Zaman are part of the Feza Gazetecilik media company.

Erdogan accuses Gulen of conspiring to overthrow the government by building a network of supporters in the judiciary, police and media. Gulen denies the accusations.

The two men were allies until police and prosecutors considered sympathetic to Gulen opened a corruption investigation into Erdogan’s inner circle in 2013.

At the start of March, Turkish authorities shut down media businesses seized last year from Koza Ipek Holding, a conglomerate linked to Gulen.

Additional reporting by Washington Newsroom; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by David Dolan and Larry King