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Islamists Storm Turkey’s Hurriyet Newspaper a Second Time

Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper has suffered a second, bolder attack on headquarters in both Istanbul and Ankara, following an attack earlier this week in which Islamists broke office doors with stones and sticks, while yelling, “Allahu akbar.”

Islamist supporters of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) arrived on the premises of both offices around 8:30 p.m. local time, this time armed with both stones and guns. Hurriyet reports that around 100 “club-swinging protesters” arrived at the scene, and four gunshots could be heard amid the mob, though no evidence has been found of where those bullets landed. The protesters, chanting, “Allahu akbar” again, were attempting to break into the Hurriyet offices, presumably to attack its reporters and editors.

The struggle outside continued for an estimated half-hour before riot police arrived to diffuse the scene, despite a similar attack on the paper having occurred less than two days prior. According to witnesses, the crowd also began to chant, “Eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth!” They were prevented from entering the Istanbul building only by security guards and the presence of three trucks strategically parked in front of the building, according to Zaman, another newspaper that has criticized the government in the past.

Hurriyet has published security camera footage of both the Ankara and Istanbul attacks.

The newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Sedat Ergin, spoke to CNN Türk following the attack, explaining the gravity of the situation. “If they had entered the building, I don’t know if I could be here now. … I am not able to believe that I am working as a journalist in a democracy because fear and democracy cannot live side by side,” he said, demanding the government provide Hurriyet with added security.

“If the President and Prime Minister had condemned the first attack, they couldn’t have attacked for a second time. There weren’t enough policemen,” Ergin said in a separate interview.

Instead of providing Hurriyet with more security, the federal government has assigned a prosecutor to probe the newspaper on potential charges of “insulting the president,” a crime in Turkey. The initial incident triggering the first attack was a tweet in which supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan believed that Hurriyet was implying that Erdogan had said a recent terrorist attack by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) would not have happened had the AKP won a supermajority in Parliament. The tweet was almost immediately deleted, but received enough attention for AKP representatives to organize a violent mob in front of the newspaper.

Hurriyet employees claim that “police did not even question one perpetrator” after the first attack. Six were reportedly detained in connection with the attack, but were almost immediately released. Authorities claim that 93 people have been detained in connection with mob violence, both against the press and other political actors, such as the Kurdish-friendly Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) headquarters. It is not known whether the government will prosecute any of those detained.

In addition to the current probe, Hurriyet columnist Ertuğrul Özkök is currently being investigated for a column in which he allegedly blamed Erdogan, in part, for the death of three-year-old Syrian migrant Aylan Kurdi.

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