Turkish daily to publish WikiLeaks cables on Turkey

March 17, 2011, Thursday/ 17:38:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

A Turkish newspaper said on Wednesday that it has linked up with WikiLeaks to publish thousands of US diplomatic cables covering Washington’s relationship with Turkey -- the country from which the largest number of cables originated. Taraf said on Wednesday it reached a deal with WikiLeaks, which had sought cooperation with the liberal newspaper. An Indian newspaper, The Hindu, began publishing US diplomatic cables related to India on Tuesday in a similar deal.

Taraf said it did not pay WikiLeaks for the cables and that it will begin publishing 11,000 cables, most of which are from the last decade, on Thursday.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is fighting extradition from Britain to Sweden over alleged sex crimes, told Taraf in an interview that Turkey is the second most-mentioned country in US diplomatic cables after Iraq, which is the reason why they made this move to publish the cables with Taraf. “Turkey is a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. It is clear that the US State Department and Washington in general have long trusted Turkey to spread its operations and influence,” Assange was quoted as saying in Taraf.

Last year, WikiLeaks gave access to some of the 250,000 US diplomatic cables it had in its possession to five newspapers: The Guardian (UK), The New York Times (US), El Pais (Spain), Le Monde (France) and Der Spiegel (Germany). Several cables on Turkey have already been disclosed, revealing confidential or secret assessments by US diplomats of Turkish domestic politics and foreign policy. Late last year, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he was working on legal action against claims made in the leaked cables that he owned eight secret Swiss bank accounts. The computer expert, who infuriated the US government by publishing thousands of the secret cables, said his staff has carefully looked for a strong media partner in Turkey for a long time and that the point human rights activists and journalists agreed on was that the Taraf daily was the most “fearless newspaper.”

Assange said that although Taraf’s circulation was lower than many other major newspapers in Turkey, issues the newspaper has published were widely used by the mainstream media in the country. Through this cooperation, Assange noted, he wanted to encourage and promote the “good journalism” of Taraf and support Turkish media.

With much of the trove still unexamined, Assange said in January he was hoping to enlist as many as 60 news organizations from around the world to sift through the documents.

The WikiLeaks case has put the US State Department in a difficult position with numerous allies and other countries because of the candid and often unflattering assessments of world leaders contained in the leaked diplomatic cables.

The release of the cables was denounced by US officials, who said it put countless lives at risk by revealing the identities of people working secretly with the US. While thousands of the cables have been released, the bulk of those downloaded have not been made public. Assange told Taraf that his situation in upcoming years is uncertain, given the legal charges against him, and lamented that some of his staff are under “illegal surveillance” by the US. Assange told Taraf that one of the WikiLeaks’ intelligence sources, Bradley Manning, is facing a possible death sentence. “We therefore call on everyone in Turkey who believes in our mission to support us in this difficult time,” he said.

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