13 Turkish journalists go on trial over alleged coup support

The first trial of 13 journalists accused of taking part in or supporting last year’s coup attempt in Turkey is to open on Wednesday in İstanbul 25th Heavy Penal Court.

The journalists, who were accused of membership in faith-based Gülen movement in another investigation into Gülen-affiliated media, were acquitted after the first trial yet they were detained again before their release due to another investigation over coup charges. The prosecutor and the judges who released journalists were dismissed.

Of the 13 journalists, Ali Akkuş was released after being detained and 12 journalists were arrested after two week detention period.

An indictment drafted by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office that sought two consecutive life sentences for 13 journalists on coup charges, was accepted by the 25th High Criminal Court in İstanbul.

The indictment revealed that the suspects are accused of “membership in a terrorist organization” due to their stories, critical tweets and retweets and of “attempting to abolish constitutional order” and “attempting to overthrow the Republic of Turkish Government.”

The journalists named in the indictment are National Party (UP) leader and Türk Solu weekly columnist Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Yakup Çetin, Bünyamin Köseli, Cihan Acar, Abdullah Kılıç, Oğuz Usluer, Hüseyin Aydın, Murat Aksoy, Mustafa Erkan Acar, Seyit Kılıç, Yetkin Yıldız, Ali Akkuş and pop singer and journalist Atilla Taş.

Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The situation of media in Turkey has become critical under the state of emergency proclaimed after the coup attempt.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has showed that 276 journalists and media workers are now in jails as of August 9, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 252 are arrested pending trial, only 24 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 110 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt. Turkey’s Contemporary Journalists’ Association (ÇGD) recently announced that more than 900 press cards were cancelled.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, 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.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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