Turkish police have raided media outlets linked to a U.S.-based Muslim cleric and detained at least 23 people, including journalists and television producers, in a nationwide operation.
Though a former ally, the cleric Fethullah Gulen has been in an open conflict with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan since a graft investigation targeting the president's inner circle emerged a year ago.
The offices of the country's best-selling Zaman newspaper and Samanyolu television station were raided on Sunday, marking an escalation in Erdogan's battle with Gulen.
The Anatolia news agency says a court issued a warrant to arrest 31 people and that 23 of them were detained in raids in Istanbul and other cities across Turkey on Sunday.
Among those detained were Ekrem Dumanli, the editor-in-chief of Zaman; Hikmet Karaca, the chairman of Samanyolu TV; other journalists; and a police chief in the eastern part of the country.
“The free press cannot be silenced,” a crowd chanted at the offices of Zaman as Dumanli made a speech defiantly challenging police to detain him, while elsewhere in Istanbul, Karaca was being detained.
“History will remember the good people who walked without looking back for a more democratic Turkey,” Dumanli said before his detention. “This is not about [Gulen] movement–government rivalry. Please, we should protect our democracy.”
The editor of the English-language Today's Zaman, Bulent Kenes, told Reuters that police showed them documentation referring to a charge of “forming a gang to try to seize state sovereignty.”
The European Union said the raids were incompatible with media freedom. "The police raids and arrests of a number of journalists and media representatives in Turkey today are incompatible with the freedom of media, which is a core principle of democracy," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said in a joint statement.
Sunday's police raids had been expected for a several days after a widely followed Twitter account, which previously gave warning of other police operations, said police were set to detain some 400 people, including about 150 journalists regarded as Gulen supporters
Erdogan accuses Gulen's movement of orchestrating a plot to try to bring down his government. Ankara says his followers were behind corruption allegations that last year forced Cabinet ministers to resign.
Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, denies the accusations.
The government has said it wants Gulen extradited to Turkey.
Al Jazeera and wire services