Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Turkish police conducted raids on the offices of the opposition newspaper Bugün in Ankara on Tuesday, amid fears the government is cracking down on dissent before elections on November 1.
A Turkish government source told Asharq Al-Awsat the raids were part of an investigation into tax fraud by Bugün’s parent company Koza İpek Holding.
However, critics say the raids were conducted in connection with an article, published on Tuesday, alleging Ankara had sent weapons and supplies to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Turkish news agency Anadolu said auditors had accompanied police forces during the raid. However, a source from the newspaper denied this. Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat the source said the raids were part of moves by the Turkish government to silence critics ahead of the elections.
“The strategy here is to scare us and other news outlets by making an example of us to anyone who dares criticize [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan and his [ruling Justice and Development] party [AKP].”
Anadolu said Koza İpek Holding was also suspected of funding the Gülen Movement, led by exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, who is critical of President Erdoğan and the AKP.
Erdoğan has long accused Gülen of seeking to overthrow the government by creating a “parallel structure” network using the movement’s support-base in the media, as well as the judiciary, police, and other institutions throughout the country.
The AKP lost its majority for the first time in 13 years in June elections and has since sought to form a coalition government with other parties. Talks failed however and the country now faces a snap election on November 1, which the AKP is predicted to win comfortably.
Opposition parties and activists say the government is cracking down on dissent ahead of the vote. Recent bomb attacks in Turkey claimed by ISIS have fueled public anger in some quarters over Ankara’s alleged support for the extremist group.