Journalists Abdullah Kılıç, Ahmet Memiş, Ali Akkuş, Atilla Taş, Bayram Kaya, Bünyamin Köseli, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Cihan Acar, Cuma Ulus, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Habip Güler, Halil İbrahim Balta, Hanım Büşra Erdal, Hüseyin Aydın, Muhammet Sait Kuloğlu, Murat Aksoy, Mustafa Erkan Acar, Oğuz Usluer, Seyid Kılıç, Yakup Çetin and Yetkin Yıldız were detained by police following the order of İstanbul Chief Prosecutor Office on April 1. This time, the journalists were accused of “attempting to change constitutional order” and “attempting to abolish Turkish Republic.” The prosecutor office gave an order to keep the journalists under detention for 7 days and the detention period was extended by a court for 7 more days on April 8.
Following the decision of an İstanbul court to release 21 journalists on March 31, Erdoğanist trolls, hitmen in the media and some pro-government journalists like Cem Küçük, Fatih Tezcan, Ersoy Dede, Haşmet Babaoğlu, Süleyman Özışık, Ömer Turan, Halime Gökçe, Cemile Bayraktar, Gülcan Tezcan have organized a campaign on media and social media and also threatened the related judges and prosecutors with arrest on Friday. The objections against journalists’ release and a new court’s decision of detentions have come after this campaign and the open threats targeting jurists.
In one of the most important press freedom cases in Turkey, 29 journalists, most are in pre-trial detention for eight months without a trial and conviction, had finally appeared for a first hearing in İstanbul’s No.25 High Criminal Court on March 27. At the end of the 5-day trials, the court had decided to release journalists Abdullah Kılıç, Ahmet Memiş, Ali Akkuş, Atilla Taş, Bayram Kaya, Bünyamin Köseli, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Cihan Acar, Cuma Ulus, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Habip Güler, Halil İbrahim Balta, Hanım Büşra Erdal, Hüseyin Aydın, Muhammet Sait Kuloğlu, Murat Aksoy, Mustafa Erkan Acar, Oğuz Usluer, Seyid Kılıç, Yakup Çetin and Yetkin Yıldız.
The same court had also decided for continuation of the imprisonment of the journalists Emre Soncan, Mutlu Çölgeçen, Ufuk Şanlı, Ünal Tanık and a teacher, Davut Aydın. Journalists Bülent Ceyhan and Said Sefa have not attended in hearings during the five-day trials.
Journalists were accused of membership of a hoax terror organization called ‘FETÖ’, a pejorative acronym that Turkey’s political Islamist government has used to smear the civic Gülen movement as a ‘terrorist organization’. Prosecutor Murat Çağlak seeks up to 10 year prison sentence for 28 journalists and a life sentence for journalist Said Sefa.
In the 196 page indictment there is not a single incident of terrorist activity on the part of any of the journalists as they are basically being charged for their articles, news and critical messages on Twitter. Many journalists are allegedly linked with a whistleblower twitter account, Fuat Avni who has about 3 million followers.
The prosecutor also claims working at the critical media outlets which were shut down by the government is sufficient proof to be a member of a terrorist organization. Having an account at private Bank Asya has also been linked with supporting Gülen movement.
Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) had started an awareness campaign for first hearing of jailed 29 journalists and published stories on how the prosecutor cited social media posts by journalists as evidence of crime and terror in the controversial indictment. Ironically these tweets and articles in the indictment had never been subject of any investigation or prosecution until journalists were arrested.
Prosecutor Çağlak’s indictment has also included some articles and social media posts criticizing Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayip Erdoğan and his family members, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab who was accused of bribing Turkish ministers and is currently in jail in the US for violating sanctions against Iran.
Most of the journalists were detained and subsequently arrested in the aftermath of failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Turkey is the worst jailer of journalists in the world. SCF has recently announced the number of journalists behind bars reached to a new record with currently 231 languishing in Turkish jails, most without a trial and convictions.
Of these journalists, 179 are arrested pending trial and without a conviction. Most of the journalists do not even know what the charges are or what evidence, if any, the government has because the indictments were not filed yet. Also 92 journalists are wanted and 839 have been charged in Turkey.
Although the Gülen movement strongly denies having any role in the putsch, the government accuses it of having masterminded the foiled coup. Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Over 135,000 people, including thousands within the military, have been purged due to their real or alleged connection to the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, according to a statement by the labor minister on Jan. 10. According to a statement from Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on April 2, a total of 113,260 people have been detained as part of investigations into the Gülen movement since the July 15 coup attempt, while 47,155 were put into pre-trial detention. (SCF with turkishminute.com) April 15, 2017