ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday a constitutional court ruling that led to the release of two detained newspaper editors was a step against the country and warned the court that repeating such actions could bring its very existence into question.
The constitutional court ruled last month that the detention of Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, editor-in-chief and Ankara bureau chief of the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper, was “unlawful” and had violated their individual freedom and safety.
The two, who had been arrested in November on charges of intentionally aiding an armed terrorist organization and publishing material in violation of state security, were subsequently released.
“This institution, with the involvement of its president and some members, did not refrain from taking a decision that is against the country and its people, on a subject that is a concrete example of one of the biggest attacks against Turkey recently,” Erdogan told a rally in the southwestern city of Burdur.
“I hope the constitutional court would not again attempt such ways which will open its existence and legitimacy up for debate,” he said in a speech broadcast live on television.
Cumhuriyet published photos, videos and a report last May that it said showed intelligence officials transporting arms to Syria in trucks in 2014. Erdogan, who has cast the newspaper’s coverage as part of an attempt to undermine Turkey’s global standing, has said he will not forgive such reporting.
European leaders have warned Turkey, which aspires to membership of the European Union, over its record on freedom of expression, particularly since state-appointed administrators took over another opposition newspaper, Zaman, a week ago.
But the EU has faced criticism for compromising on that message after it struck a draft agreement with Ankara on Monday on curbing illegal migration, which could see Turkey receive 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in EU funding, visa-free travel an acceleration in long-stalled membership talks.
“I am obliged to ensure that the state organs work in harmony and that the constitution is executed,” Erdogan said.
“Whoever breaches the boundaries on this would find me against them. And if the constitutional court chooses such a path, I would not shy away from expressing my objections.”
Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Hugh Lawson