Editor: Erdogan urged attack on Turkish Cypriot newspaper

January 22, 2018

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his ruling party members in Bursa, Turkey, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018. Turkish troops and Syrian opposition forces attacked a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria on Sunday in their bid to drive from the region a U.S.-allied Kurdish militia, which responded with a hail of rockets on Turkish towns that killed at least one refugee. The Turkish offensive on Afrin, which started Saturday, has raised tension in the already complicated Syrian conflict, threatened to deepen strained ties between NATO allies Turkey and the United States.(Kayhan Ozer/Pool Photo via AP)

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The editor-in-chief of a left-wing Turkish Cypriot newspaper alleged that Turkey’s president incited supporters to attack the publication’s office Monday because the paper had criticized Ankara’s military offensive in Syria.

Dozens of people waving the Turkish flag smashed windows and hurled stones, eggs and other items at Afrika’s office in Nicosia, the split capital of ethnically divided Cyprus, the editor’s assistant, Cinel Husseyin, said. She said a few tried to storm the first-floor office.

Editor Sener Levent said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged supporters to “answer” Afrika for suggesting that Turkey’s offensive into a Syrian enclave controlled by a U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia was a bid to occupy that country’s territory.

A headline in Afrika’s Sunday edition likened Turkey’s action to its military “occupation” of Cyprus’ north, where Turkey has kept 35,000 troops since 1974 when it invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence. Cyprus’ government, seated in the Greek Cypriot south, is recognized internationally.

Levent said his newspaper won’t be silenced in calling out Turkey’s policies either in the breakaway north of Cyprus or elsewhere.

“Erdogan sent the demonstrators. It was a threat made against us,” Levent told The Associated Press, with Husseyin acting as an interpreter. “We will continue telling the truth, and the newspaper will circulate tomorrow.”

Erdogan didn’t immediately respond to Levent’s allegations.

According to the Turkish presidency’s website, Erdogan earlier called Afrika “a cheap and nasty newspaper” that ran an “impertinent” headline and invited Turkish Cypriots to “give the necessary response to this.”

In a statement, Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said he disapproved of Afrika’s “occupation” reference. If Turkey had not acted as it did in 1974, Turkish Cypriots would be reduced to “minority” status within a Greek-run state, Akinci said.

He said there was no reason to resort to violence no matter how “wrong” Afrika’s position was.

Cyprus’ government condemned what it claimed was Erdogan’s attempt to “entrench authoritarian rule” in the island nation’s Turkish-controlled north. It said it would ask the United Nations and European institutions to take steps to protect a free press and free speech there.

Cyprus Journalists’ Union condemned the violence, saying in a statement that journalists aren’t “servants to power no matter how powerful or absolute that power is.”

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