The number of imprisoned journalists in Turkey rose to 105, according to a written statement issued Sunday by the Platform of Solidarity with Imprisoned Journalists.
Most recently, Aziz Tekin, the Kurdish-language newspaper Azadiya Welat's eastern province of Mardin representative, was arrested in Kızıltepe, Mardin in an operation against the Kurdish Communities Union, or KCK, an alleged urban wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, on Saturday.
"Turkey has the highest number of arrested journalists in the world. With this last detention, Turkey strengthened its position on the top of the list. The Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is abusing the anti-terror law," the platform said in the written statement.
The group also reminded of Turkey's step backward in press freedom rankings; Turkey reversed 10 places to rank 148th out of 178 countries in the Reporters without Borders', or RSF, World Press Freedom Index for 2011.
Meanwhile, the release of 13 journalists, including Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener, was denied by a court in Istanbul, despite both pleading against charges leveled in the OdaTV case on Friday. The case was postponed until March 12.
Şık and Nedim flatly denied the charges leveled against them during the 10th hearing of the Oda TV probe, which began after law enforcement officials conducted a search of the offices of the online news portal last February, as part of the ongoing Ergenekon investigation.
Ergenekon is an alleged ultranationalist, shadowy gang accused of planning to topple the government by staging a coup initially by spreading chaos and mayhem. It is also thought to be an extension of, or a different name, for the "deep state," which is an alleged unofficial organization of bureaucracy and military operating behind the scenes of the official state structure.
French Law Trying to 'Nazify' Turks, Davutoglu Says
A French bill criminalizing denial of the Armenian genocide is designed to "Nazify" Turkey and push it out of Europe, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said, while slamming the European Union for failing to denounce the motion.
"The basic aim here is to Nazify the Turks, in a sense to confine it to somewhere other than European culture. We'll not let this happen," Davutoğlu told private broadcaster CNNTürk late Friday.
He also said he was disappointed by the silence of the EU, citing in contrast the clear attitude of the United States administration against the French "genocide denial" law.
If any candidate country to the EU had implemented such a law, the union would have raised the issue, included it in its progress reports and made its removal a precondition of entry, Davutoğlu said, adding that Turkey expected the EU to impose sanctions on France.
The minister also said France had lost its impartiality in the Azeri-Armenian conflict, meaning its co-chairmanship in the Minsk Group had become questionable. Turkey was hopeful that French senators would collect the 60 signatures necessary to take the law to the country's Constitutional Council in order to abolish the bill.
Davutoğlu also had a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday to thank her for her statement disapproving of the French bill. The two also discussed the latest developments in the Middle East and Davutoğlu's upcoming trip to Washington, diplomatic sources said. Clinton criticized the French law on Friday, saying the U.S. would never follow a path that criminalizes expression. She warned against using governmental force in order to resolve historical issues.
Meanwhile, Turkey has reviewed a number of military projects with France, and bilateral military cooperation has been reduced to a minimum due to the bilateral strain, said Defense Industry Undersecretary Murad Bayar.
"There are one or two ongoing projects that are at the completion phase. We will start no new important project," he said, adding that there could be some joint projects with other countries that feature French contribution.
CHP Blasts 'Oppression' to Defame Municipalities
The main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, has denounced a wave of investigations targeting its municipalities as a bullying campaign to discredit the party and paralyze its local administrations ahead of the next municipal elections.
"A policy of systematic oppression, bullying and obstruction is under way. If you are a member of a CHP municipality, you can be arrested at any time, face charges carrying up to 400 years in jail and see your work thwarted," CHP Deputy Chairman Gökhan Günaydın told a press conference Sunday. "Their clock is set for 2014. They hope to render the CHP municipalities dysfunctional and then take advantage [in the elections]."
An investigation into the municipality of İzmir, a CHP stronghold, has resulted in corruption charges against Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu that carry up to 397 years in jail. It was followed by operations targeting the municipality in Eskişehir and İstanbul's Adalar district.
Günaydın said the government had given the go-ahead for 51 percent of the requests for investigation into CHP local administrations and only for 25 percent of those against municipalities run by the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP.
"The CHP municipalities are subjected to pre-dawn police raids, accompanied by pro-government media, in a manner that is reminiscent of reality shows. Why do the authorities who conduct those raids remain silent about the allegations concerning the Ankara Municipality?" he asked.
Speaking in the northwestern city of Yalova at the weekend, Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin denied that the CHP local administrations were deliberately targeted.
"There are at least as many investigations into AKP municipalities, but people follow their own more closely. As a ruling party, we don't even have someone to complain to," Şahin said.
Minister Cancels U.S., Iraq, Turkey Counterterrorism Meeting
Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin canceled a visit he was going to make to Baghdad to participate in the trilateral working group, although the trilateral initiative plays an important role in curbing Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, terrorist attacks in Turkey, which are launched from the Iraqi-Turkish border, the Milliyet reported.
Şahin's cancelation of the crucial visit was reported to be the result of Turkey's deteriorating relations with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Turkish officials have called him "a thorn in Iraqi politics," following his attack on Turkey for urging reconciliation with Sunni and Kurdish blocs. Maliki interpreted this as an intervention in the domestic politics of Iraq.
Turkey Denies Aid to Hamas, Leaves Door Open to Turkish Office
As Hamas officials in Damascus pack up to leave for good in search of a new home, Turkish Foreign Ministry officials denied claims that Turkey had offered hundreds of millions of dollars to Hamas to make up for undelivered financial assistance, while the Turkish president left the door open to the possibility of a Hamas office opening up in his country.
"Turkey has been one of the strongest advocates of the Palestinian case," President Abdullah Gül was quoted as saying by the Cihan news agency on Sunday. "Hamas is a political body that entered into elections in the Palestinian region of Gaza and came to power through the votes of the people.
"Our contact [with Hamas] has been constant, but we will have to wait and see what has come out of the frequent visits," he added, without overlooking the possibility that Hamas might be more engaged with Turkey in the future.
As Hamas gets ready to leave Syria for good, its final decision on where to set up camp has begun to draw the attention of the international media, which recently speculated that Gazan Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, on his first visit to Turkey in early January, was promised that Turkey would give Hamas around $300 million to make up for the void created by suspended financial aid from Iran, which stopped flowing in August, according to Reuters.
Officials from Turkey's Foreign Ministry approached by Today's Zaman on Sunday denied allegations that Turkey is offering millions of dollars to Hamas, saying that news featuring these allegations was made up and did not reflect the truth.
"There is no cash aid to Hamas, but Turkey is, of course, engaged in projects to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza," officials said, adding that "a $40 million hospital project is one of them, but the construction material for the hospital is not allowed into Gaza."
Turkey frequently complains about an Israeli blockade of Gaza that Israel says is needed to block weapons from reaching Hamas, which Israel considers its archenemy, but which, in reality, Turkey says, chokes the Gazan economy and keeps Gazans underserved and underdeveloped.
Hamas has made it public that it is mulling over where it will call home next, and Turkey, along with Egypt, Qatar and Jordan, have been included on the list of possible hosts.
Hamas political bureau leader Khaled Mashaal's slow and quiet departure from Damascus on Friday hit the international media, giving rise to debates over whether the movement, considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States, would seek to patch up ties with the Arab nations once more, or remain closely allied to the Shiite bloc of the region, led by Iran and Syria.
Mashaal's departure from Syria, a close ally of Iran, was also interpreted as a sign that Hamas might now be seeking a new home to conduct its business, preferably some place that has good international contact and political stability -- qualities that make Turkey a very plausible candidate. Turkey remains on the edge with regard to its Hamas policy, but engages the movement with the aim of reconciling split Palestinian blocs for a unified and sovereign state of Palestine.
Hamas is believed to be leaving Syria on the grounds that the Syrian administration is destroying its roots in the country and expecting backup from Hamas in its fight against the protesters, putting Hamas in a very tight and uncomfortable spot.
World Leader Taking Different Approach with Turkey, Bagis Says
Turkish Minister for European Union Affairs and Chief Negotiator Egemen Bagis said Sunday that they noticed a different approach to Turkey by world leaders at the World Economic Forum, or WEF, in Davos, Switzerland this week.
Bagis returned to Turkey on Sunday after attending the WEF in Davos.
Speaking to reporters at Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport, Bagis said: "Turkey's economic achievements, success in international relations, and steps taken within the country for transparency and democratization have attracted the attention of the whole globe.
"We have heard many kind words about the real architect behind Turkey's success, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Davos became a global intellectual meeting where everyone tried to understand the Recep Tayyip Erdogan formula," Bagis said.
Touching on efforts to limit the freedom of expression in Europe, Bagis underlined that "at a time when steps are being taken in different parts of the globe for freedom of expression, efforts to limit the freedom of expression in countries that consider themselves the cradle of democracy, like France and Switzerland, cannot go further than just being printed on paper."
OIC Parliamentary Union Shuns French Denial Law
Lawmakers from member countries of a parliamentary assembly of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation have agreed to reject in a final declaration of their conference a French legislation that makes it a crime to deny Armenian allegations on Ottoman era incidents of 1915.
The OIC Parliamentary Union has decided to include a paragraph in the final declaration of their 7th Conference in Palembang, Indonesia, that shuns the French denial bill as "virtually non-existent" after a proposal by Turkish delegates to the conference and the backing of other members of the OIC Parliamentary Union.
"This is going to be the first joint response from an international meeting to the French bill which was adopted by the French Senate," said Emrullah Isler, head of the Turkish delegation.
The French bill makes denial of Ottoman era incidents of 1915 punishable in France with a prison term of one year and a fine of 45,000 euros. The bill has yet to go into force as a French constitutional committee had expressed "serious concerns" about the constitutionality of the legislation. Several members of the upper and lower houses of the French parliament have launched a campaign to appeal to a French higher court for the annulment of the legislation.
Analysts Say Turkey on Wrong Track over Armenian Genocide
Turkey's attempts to intimidate France and other countries over the question of the Armenian genocide are bound to backfire, analysts said as the 100th anniversary of the bloodshed approaches.
"This negative and reactive strategy has failed, and no one is ready to admit it," said Cengiz Aktar of Istanbul's Bahcesehir University. "I hope that the authorities will think about it and come up with a different tack by the time of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide that is coming up" in 2015, said Aktar, an international relations professor, using the term Ankara condemns.
Hugh Pope of the International Crisis Group agreed, saying: "There are many people in Turkey that are worried about how Turkey is going to handle the situation in 2015."
He said Ankara should "get on a path of reconciliation with the Armenians so that they can be on the side of the people who are going to be remembering the lost communities of Armenians" in the anniversary year.
The French Senate on Monday approved legislation under which anyone in France who denies that the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turk forces amounted to genocide could face imprisonment.
On Tuesday, Paris brushed off angry threats of retaliation by Turkey and said the bill would become law in two weeks.
Ankara has already halted political and military cooperation and is threatening to cut off economic and cultural ties. Bilateral trade totaled some 11.7 billion euros ($15.4 billion) in 2010.
The French chamber of commerce in Turkey, which has some 400 members, on Thursday expressed "great disappointment" over the bill and called on France's constitutional council to nix it.
"Turkey is making more and more threats against France," wrote editorialist Semih Idiz in the Milliyet daily. "But in a few weeks the issue will rear its head again in the United States Congress. There are other countries waiting in the wings. Will Turkey recall its ambassador each time?" he asked. "It's an absurd situation."
Armenia and its diaspora in countries around the world have long campaigned for international recognition of the killings as genocide, despite strong denials from Turkey.
Armenians maintains that planned massacres and deportations left more than 1.5 million people dead, but Turkey puts the number at up to 500,000, describing the bloodshed as civil strife stemming from the conflict with Russia in World War I.
Around 20 countries have officially recognized the killings as genocide.
The dispute is in addition to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, an ally of Turkey, over the Nagorny-Karabakh enclave.
Ankara and Yerevan signed a historic protocol in 2009 to normalize relations, but it was never ratified as Turkey demanded a resolution to the Nagorny-Karabakh dispute.
Armenian separatists backed by Yerevan seized Nagorny-Karabakh from Azerbaijan in a war in the 1990s that left some 30,000 people dead; the two sides have not signed a final peace deal since a 1994 ceasefire.
But Turkey can no longer escape its duty of contrition for the genocide, said Soli Ozel of Istanbul's Kadir Has University
"First and foremost, it must express chagrin, and the Turkish state has never done that," the international relations professor wrote in the daily HaberTurk.
German Minister Accuses Party of Supporting PKK
German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said some groups in the Left Party (Die Linke) are supporting terrorist groups like the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.
The comments came after the German weekly, Der Spiegel, revealed that the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution has been monitoring 27 of the 76 Left Party members, as well as 11 other politicians in regional parliaments.
"Some groups in the Left Party are supporting terrorist organizations like the outlawed PKK," Friedrich said, the Anatolia news agency reported.
Friedrich said some groups within the party join other groups that are explicitly seeking socialist-communist order and, because of these acts, the party should be monitored closely.
The Left Party is seen as a foe to the constitution and is not only working for the abolishment of capitalism, but for building a new social order, according to the report published in the magazine. The report also claimed 16 board members out of 44 are members of radical groups including Communist Platform, Socialist Left and Marxist Forum.
Cansu Özdemir, Hamburg deputy of the party, condemned the monitoring.
"If the German state would use its right eye instead of its left eye, they would reveal the countless murders committed by Nazis," Özdemir said, according to the Fırat news agency.
Among those being watched are head of the parliamentary group Gregor Gysi, party leader Gesine Lotzsch and the vice president of the Bundestag, Petra Pau.
"The Constitutional Protection Office hasn't picked up on the fact that the world has changed. They haven't learned that there were eight murders by right-wing terrorists. They haven't figured out that the Cold War is over," Gysi said.
Friedrich said it is a legal duty to observe organizations and parties that could possibly be a threat to the German constitution.
"There are significant indications that the Left Party has such anti-constitutional tendencies," Freidrich said.