As trial nears end, jailed Turkish journalist Türköne calls for investigation into prosecutor

Professor Mümtaz’er Türköne, who is among 11 former columnists and editors of the now-closed Zaman daily standing trial on various charges, has said he wants a criminal complaint to be filed against the prosecutor who indicted him because he violated the law while presenting evidence against him to the court.

The trial of Türköne along with the other Zaman journalists continued at the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court on Thursday. The journalists face charges of violating the Constitution, membership in a terrorist organization, disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization and aiding a terrorist organization.

The Zaman daily, which was Turkey’s best-selling newspaper, was closed down along with dozens of other media outlets due to their links to the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Türköne, who delivered his defense during Thursday’s hearing, said: “There are 10 articles [written by me] in the indictment, while there are 23 mentioned in the prosecutor’s opinion. Some of the articles in the CDs [delivered to the court] are from the prosecutor’s opinion. There are articles that have not been requested by the court. I am saying articles because we are being tried because of our articles.”

He said he wants to file a complaint against the prosecutor, Cem Üstündağ, with the Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) because the prosecutor violated many laws in his opinion regarding the accusations.

“I want the prosecutor to be withdrawn from this trial and an investigation to be launched into him,” said Türköne, noting that the prosecutor adding documents to his opinion that are not included in the indictment and not presented to the court is against the Turkish Code of Criminal Procedure (CMK).

Türköne, who is also a professor of political science, is among the dozens of journalists who were arrested in the aftermath of the failed coup. He used to write columns for the Zaman daily.

In his defense, Türköne also recalled a ruling made by Turkey’s Constitutional Court in January concerning journalists Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan, who were also arrested after the coup attempt, that their rights were violated and they should be released from jail. While Alpay was released pending trial and put under house arrest, Altan is still in prison.

Türköne said the Constitutional Court’s ruling also applies for the journalists in Thursday’s hearing because the top court said a journalist cannot be arrested due to their newspaper articles.

During the final hearing of the trial, which will be held on Friday, former Zaman columnists Alpay, Ahmet Turan Alkan, Ali Bulaç, Lale Sarıibrahimoğlu, Nuriye Ural, Zaman editors Mehmet Özdemir and İbrahim Karayeğen and Zaman Ankara representative Mustafa Ünal will deliver their final defenses.

Lawyer and Bugün daily columnist Orhan Kemal Cengiz Cengiz, who is also a well-known human rights activist in Turkey, also delivered his defense during Thursday’s hearing in which he said he is being tried not because of his articles in the Bugün daily but because of his activities as a lawyer.

The Bugün daily was closed down by the Turkish government following the failed coup.

Cengiz said: “There is no [criminal] act in the indictment [committed by me]. My name was added there because I challenged the government’s appointment of trustees to the Zaman newspaper [in March 2016].”

Cengiz asked for acquittal of all charges.

In the third hearing of the trial on April 5, the prosecutor, who announced his opinion, demanded an aggravated life sentence and an additional 15 years for Bulaç, Türköne, Alkan, Özdemir, Ünal and Kareyeğen on charges of attempting to overthrow the Constitutional order and membership in a terrorist organization.

The trial will continue on Friday, when the court is expected to announce its final verdict.

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Wednesday. If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 254 journalists and media workers were in jail as of May 8, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 192 were under arrest pending trial while only 62 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 142 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after the coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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