Bulent Kenes is a hunted man.
He was once one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s most strident champions, editor of a top English-language daily at the forefront of government-backed efforts to take on critics. Now, he’s one of scores of Turkish journalists branded terrorists and facing years behind bars.
Western leaders and press freedom groups have rallied around their cause and accused Turkey of an unprecedented crackdown on free speech. But after years of hurling inflammatory accusations, Mr. Kenes and other journalists aligned with a U.S.-based imam accused of masterminding a failed coup are having a harder time finding sympathy at home.
“They have burned bridges with every single constituency in Turkey,” said Aaron Stein, a Turkey specialist at the Atlantic Council in Washington.
Turkey has detained around 100 journalists for alleged links to Fethullah Gulen, at one time one of Mr. Erdogan’s most important allies and now his biggest foe, as well as more than 35,000 of the imam’s other alleged supporters in the government.
Turkey wants the U.S. to extradite Mr. Gulen, who has denied any responsibility for the July 15 coup attempt, in which 271 people died, including 31 coup plotters. Mr. Kenes, who is open about his ties to Mr. Gulen and also denies a role, has a warrant out for his arrest. Police officials declined to discuss his case.
He says he has gone into hiding to avoid being jailed. Twice in recent weeks, Mr. Kenes says, police have raided his Istanbul home.
The former editor of Today’s Zaman says he has stopped using credit cards so that Turkish intelligence can’t pinpoint his whereabouts. And now his cash is running low, he says.
“I don’t know when I will be able to go home,” Mr. Kenes said. “I have no valid passport, I have gone from house to house, and things are only getting worse.”