Arrest warrant issued for Sözcü daily’s license holder over alleged Gülen links

Sözcü daily's license holder Burak Akbay.

Following the arrest on Friday of Sözcü daily reporter Gökmen Ulu and online manager Mediha Olgun, an arrest warrant has been issued for Sözcü’s license holder, Burak Akbay, who is believed to be abroad, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Saturday.

According to the story, a request from the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has been approved by an İstanbul court for the arrest of Akbay on charges of membership in the faith-based Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15.

On Friday reporter Ulu and online manager Olgun were arrested for “knowingly and willingly helping the terrorist organization,” by an İstanbul court. A third employee, finance manager Yonca Yücekaleli, was released by the court.

An investigation was launched into Sözcü over a report on July 15 that showed where Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was spending his holiday in Marmaris, the same day a failed coup attempt took place in Turkey.

Before he was detained at his home in İzmir’s Karşıyaka district, Ulu underlined that the holiday venues of political leaders are always newsworthy all over the world, adding that he also went to Erdoğan’s hotel during the coup attempt and covered his statement as well.

Representatives of bar associations, the Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC) and the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS) along with main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies, journalists and readers protested the arrests in front of the İstanbul Courthouse on Friday.

The Sözcü daily last Saturday published a totally blank edition with the headline “May 19 press freedom special edition” to protest detention warrants issued the previous day for its owner and three of its employees.

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu lashed out the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government for the operation against the leading opposition newspaper. “We are faced with a dictatorial administration. The operation against Sözcü is an operation against Turkey,” he said.

The European Union last week expressed concerns about the operation in İstanbul targeting the Sözcü daily.

“The EU is worried about the police operation conducted today in İstanbul targeting journalists of daily Sözcü and their staff members, and on the selective and arbitrary application of anti-terror legislation, which have a grave impact on freedom of expression,” Maja Kocijancic, EU spokesperson, said in response to a question concerning the operation against Sözcü.

Turkey is the leading jailer of journalists in the world. The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 264 journalists are now in jails as of May 27, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 241 are arrested pending trial, only 23 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 105 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 coup attempt. (SCF with May 28, 2017

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