Turkey arrests 20 after ‘provocative’ social media posts about earthquake

Turkey arrests 20 after ‘provocative’ social media posts about earthquake

Follow the latest news on the earthquake in Turkey and Syria

Turkish authorities have arrested 20 people over what they called “provocative” social media posts made about the February 6 earthquake that has so far killed more than 40,000 people in Turkey and Syria.

Turkish police said 613 people were spreading “fear and panic” through their social media accounts, as legal proceedings were launched against 239. As of Wednesday, 20 people had been arrested and 78 “detained”, Bloomberg reported.

The arrests come as Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg prepares to visit Turkey, a Nato member, on Thursday to see areas affected by the earthquake and discuss relief efforts, state news agency Anadolu reported.

He will also meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara, Mr Stoltenberg’s office said.

The trip comes as Mr Stoltenberg urges Turkey to ratify Sweden and Finland’s applications to join the alliance.

Norway has meanwhile sent C-130J Hercules transport aircraft to Turkey to support evacuation efforts, in an intervention arranged through a Nato crisis response centre.

On Wednesday, Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan travelled to Turkey for a rare visit, meeting his Turkish counterpart as the two countries seek to normalise relations after decades of animosity.

At loggerheads since Armenia gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the neighbouring nations have never established formal diplomatic relations.

On Saturday, a border crossing between Armenia and Turkey opened for the first time in 35 years, to allow humanitarian aid through after the January 6 earthquake.

Despite more than 222 hours having passed since the disaster struck, people are still being found alive in Turkey as aid pours in.

In north-western Syria, the White Helmets Civil Defence rescue group said it had so far recorded more than 2,274 deaths and more than 12,400 injuries.

Millions are in need of humanitarian aid, with many survivors having been left homeless in near-freezing winter temperatures.

In Turkey’s southern Hatay province, half of the buildings have either collapsed, been heavily damaged, or need to be demolished quickly, the government said.

“We will quickly demolish what needs to be demolished and build safe houses,” Turkey’s Environment and Urban Planning Minister Murat Kurum tweeted.

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