Turkey arrests hundreds over Syria social media posts

Turkey has arrested hundreds of people over the past week on charges of “terrorist propaganda” after they criticised the country's military offensive in Syria.

The Interior Ministry said police detained 311 people for the offences. Legal proceedings were also started against 208 people after it was found owners of 571 social media accounts had committed crimes including inciting hatred, insulting state officials, supporting terrorism and threatening the unity of the state.

Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan’s government is intensifying a crackdown on dissent after ordering the military to enter Syria to fight Kurdish militants it says are affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK is recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and European Union.

Senior EU politicians including French President Emmanuel Macron have called for Turkey to be offered an arrangement with the EU that excludes full membership, citing recent human rights abuses. Membership talks with Turkey, which says its democracy meets EU standards, have effectively been frozen.

Kati Piri, the European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur, said in an interview with Ahval that Erdogan’s government would cross an EU “red line” should it introduce a full presidential system of government after elections next year. While the step was approved by voters in a referendum last year, the results were undermined by allegations of fraud.

Turkey was downgraded to “not free” from “partly free” in a latest report by Freedom House published earlier this month.