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Turkey arrests top journalist day after release
by Staff Writers
Ankara (AFP) Sept 23, 2016


Erdogan says US arming Syrian Kurdish militia
Ankara, Turkey (AFP) Sept 23, 2016 - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the United States of sending more weapons to a Syrian Kurdish militia in defiance of Ankara's repeated insistence it is a "terrorist" organisation.

Although the US views the the People's Protection Units (YPG) militia as its most significant ground ally against jihadists, Ankara says the fighters are "terrorists" linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which for decades has waged an insurgency in southeastern Turkey.

Erdogan said late Thursday that three days earlier the US sent "two planes with weapons" to Kobane in northern Syria for the YPG and its Democratic Union Party (PYD) political wing.

In a speech in New York after attending the UN General Assembly, Erdogan said Washington was mistaken in using the YPG as an ally in the fight against IS.

"If you think you can finish Daesh (IS) off with the PYD and YPG, you cannot, because they are terrorist groups as well," he said in remarks posted on the presidential website.

He added he had raised the issue of the alleged weapons delivery in talks with US Vice President Joe Biden but said Biden insisted he had no information.

Erdogan added the US sent arms to Kurdish militia during the battle for Kobane, a Kurdish-majority town, between IS and the YPG in 2014, saying half of the weapons fell into the hands of IS extremists.

The president's accusations risk causing further tension between the NATO allies over Washington's support for the YPG in its fight against IS.

Previously, the US has insisted that any military equipment provided to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the past has gone only to Arab fighters.

There are about 30,000 fighters in the SDF which is made up largely of Kurds, but also has a significant Syrian Arab component.

General Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Thursday that the US was considering arming the SDF who would join the offensive to retake the IS stronghold of Raqa.

But Dunford said that the US would work "very closely with our Turkish allies" to assuage Ankara's concerns over the Syrian Kurds' long-term political prospects.

Turkey's presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Thursday it was "out of the question" for Ankara to join any operation to take Raqa if it included the YPG or PYD.

Turkey has over the last month sent dozens of tanks and hundreds of troops into Syria to back pro-Ankara Syrian rebels fighting IS and the YPG.

A Turkish court on Friday put a prominent journalist under arrest just a day after he was released over accusations related to the failed July coup, in a case that has sparked global concern.

Journalist and writer Ahmet Altan was detained late on Thursday, after he had been freed earlier in the day after almost two weeks behind bars.

The new arrest warrant was issued following an appeal by prosecutors.

The veteran journalist was taken to court early Friday and remanded in custody charged with "attempting to remove the government or attempting to obstruct its work", the Anadolu news agency said.

He was also charged with "being a member of a terrorist organisation", referring to the movement of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

An Istanbul court also placed his academic brother Professor Mehmet Altan under arrest on the same charges.

Ankara accuses the preacher of ordering the July 15 attempted coup and the movement of being a "terrorist organisation", claims which Gulen strongly denies.

Ahmet Altan is a novelist who has also written for some of Turkey's best dailies including Hurriyet and Milliyet as well as founding the opposition daily Taraf.

Mehmet Altan has written books on Turkish politics.

The pair are accused of making comments with a "subliminal" message that the putsch was imminent during a talk show on the Can Erzincan TV channel on July 14, the eve of the coup.

The broadcaster, seen by the authorities as strongly pro-Gulen, has since been shut down.

The Altan brothers case has been a touchpoint for activists and fellow writers across the world worried about what they claim is the erosion of freedom of expression in Turkey.

Turkey's bestselling and Nobel-winning author Orhan Pamuk lashed out at the initial arrest of the journalist, warning that Turkey was heading towards becoming "a regime of terror".

He joined nearly 300 writers, including J.M. Coetzee, Salman Rushdie and Elif Safak, earlier this month in penning a piece calling for their release and for the Turkish government to respect freedom of speech.

"Like his brother and others now in jail, his (Mehmet Altan's) crime is not supporting a coup but the effectiveness of his criticism of the current government," they wrote.

Dozens of journalists have been detained since the attempted coup while over 100 media organs including newspapers have been shut down.

The Turkish government insists those detained were not engaged in normal journalistic activity.


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