Critical Turkish journalist living in exile in Sweden brutally attacked

Ahmet Dönmez, a Turkish journalist critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who has been living in exile in Sweden, was attacked by two men in Stockholm, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Kronos news website.

According to Kronos, Dönmez, known for his reports on mafia groups associated with Turkish government officials including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, lost consciousness after the attack, which took place in front of his 6-year-old daughter, and is currently in intensive care at a local Stockholm hospital.

Dönmez had previously tweeted that he was receiving death threats from crime boss İhsan Hızarcı after saying in a Youtube video that Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu provided protection to a mob boss named Ayhan Bora Kaplan.

Releasing a photo of the threats he received as WhatsApp messages, Dönmez said in a tweet on Feb. 19, “The Ankara mafia İhsan Hızarcı, who was mentioned in my last video, sent me this threatening message: ‘Don’t feel safe that you’re in Sweden, I’ll have your head cut off within 24 hours.’”

Dönmez was a former Ankara correspondent for the Zaman daily, which was seized and shut down by the Turkish government in 2016 over links to the faith-based Gülen movement.

The daily, which had the largest daily circulation — with more than 600,000 subscribers — in Turkey at the time, was confiscated by government officials in the aftermath of a rift between Erdoğan’s AKP government and the movement.

Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the movement, which is inspired by the ideas and activism of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, implicating then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He locked up thousands, including many prosecutors, judges and police officers involved in the investigation.

Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

Turkish journalists are often targeted and jailed for their journalistic activities.

Last year in July, dissident journalist Erk Acarer, a columnist for the Birgün daily who lives in exile in Germany, was attacked “with fists and knives” in the courtyard of his apartment building in Berlin.

Turkey is one of the world’s biggest jailers of professional journalists and ranked 153rd among 180 countries in terms of press freedom in 2021, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

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