Ankara (AFP) – Turkish security forces on Tuesday detained dozens more people across the country on accusations of disseminating propaganda for “terror” groups, in a major clampdown as Ankara presses its new offensive inside Syria.
Forty-two people were detained in locations ranging from Izmir on the Aegean to Van in the east over their postings on social media.
Twenty-four people had been detained in other cities on Monday.
The detentions come as Turkey pressed ahead with its military incursion in northern Syria against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for national unity over the operation and warned those responding to calls for protests would pay a “heavy price”.
Twenty-three suspects were detained in the Aegean province of Izmir, the state-run Anadolu news agency said. Six of the suspects had been planning a protest in a park, the agency said.
The Izmir provincial chairman of Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was reportedly also detained.
Eleven people were taken into custody in the eastern cities of Van and Igdir while others were arrested in the southern city of Mersin and Mus in the east.
The six detained in Van are accused of making propaganda and sharing information that is “not true” about the Syria operation, dubbed “Olive Branch”.
After the arrests on Monday, rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) hit out at Ankara’s “intolerance of criticism”, in a statement.
Emma Sinclair-Webb, HRW’s Turkey researcher, said prosecutors were misusing articles of the law to “silence” journalists, government critics and activists.
“Turkey’s silencing of voices who speak out against war is in violation of its own laws and obligations under international human rights law,” she said.
Meanwhile, controversy rumbled over the vandalising by protesters of the offices of a newspaper in the Turkish Cypriot breakaway statelet — recognised only by Ankara — that had called the operation an “occupation”.
Hundreds had demonstrated outside the offices of the daily Afrika newspaper in Nicosia on Monday, apparently responding to a call by Erdogan who had criticised the paper.
“Intimidating journalists is unacceptable. The European Parliament will always defend media freedom, the cornerstone of democracy,” wrote the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani on Twitter, as he condemned the attacks on the newspaper.