Turkish Author Orhan Pamuk Calls for Release of Journalists "Purged" After Coup

Orhan Pamuk

In an open letter also signed by actresses Gillian Anderson and Thandie Newton, the Noble Prize winner says Ankara's crackdown can't turn into “a McCarthy-style witch-hunt.”

Turkish Noble Prize-winning writer Orhan Pamuk has called for the release of journalists arrested in his country in the the wake of the failed coup of July 15.

In an open letter, signed by several prominent writers, actors and filmmakers, Pamuk compared the Turkish government's crackdown against journalists and intellectuals to a “McCarthy-era witch hunt.”

Since the failed coup, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has carried out a purge of those believed to have links to Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based Turkish cleric Ankara accuses of being behind the plot to topple the government.

Some 80,000 people have been arrested in the sweeps, including academics, judges, journalists, civil servants and soldiers.

As of Sept. 7, 117 Turkish journalists have been arrested, according to P24, an online platform for independent journalism in Turkey. The Turkish government has also cracked down on opposition media, shutting down newspapers and TV channels it says have links to Gulen. Turkey has called on the U.S. to extradite the cleric, who denies any involvement in the coup attempt.

The letter, first published in The Guardian, calls in particular for the release of Ahmet Altan, a journalist and columnist for Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, and his brother Mehmet Altan, an economics professor at Istanbul university, both of whom were detained over the weekend. .

In addition to Pamuk, signatories to the letter include actresses Gillian Anderson (The X-Files) and Thandie Newton (Mission: Impossible II), director Stephen Frears (Florence Foster Jenkins), musician Nick Cave and writers including Salman Rushdie, Michael Ondaatje, Nick Hornby and Julian Barnes.