US condemns arrests of journalists in Turkey

Staff members and supporters of Zaman newspaper shout as its editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanli (C) is arrested by counter-terror police at the newspaper's headquarters in Istanbul on December 14, 2014 (AFP Photo/Ozan Kose) (AFP)

Washington (AFP) - The United States expressed concern Sunday over the arrests in Turkey of more than two dozen leading media figures in lightning raids targeting perceived opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The operation was the most significant yet against supporters of US-based exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who the Turkish strongman has accused of running a parallel state from abroad.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington was "closely following" reports of the raids and arrests.

"Media freedom, due process and judicial independence are key elements in every healthy democracy and are enshrined in the Turkish constitution," she added.

"As Turkey's friend and ally, we urge the Turkish authorities to ensure their actions do not violate these core values and Turkey's own democratic foundations."

Among those arrested was Ekrem Dumanli, the editor-in-chief of the Zaman daily, Turkey's largest newspaper, which is closely linked to Gulen.

The group also includes an executive of Samanyolu television, seen as close to Gulen, as well as a TV director, producers, scriptwriters and some police officers.

Arrest warrants were issued for a total of 31 people, the official Anatolia news agency reported.

Pennsylvania-based Gulen, 73, is the spiritual leader of the Hizmet (Service) movement, which controls media outlets, schools and cultural centers.

He was a key backer of Erdogan before falling out with him over the government's plans to shut down his schools.

As in almost all previous raids -- which targeted mostly police officers suspected of backing Gulen -- the details of the swoop were leaked by a mysterious Twitter user named Fuat Avni before it was even carried out.