Court denies former Zaman columnist’s request to travel for medical treatment

A request filed by columnist for the now-closed Zaman daily and academic Mümtaz’er Türköne to be allowed to travel abroad for medical reasons was turned down yesterday by the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court, the Tr724 news website reported.

Türköne suffers from heart disease and had a stent inserted to open a clogged artery in 2019 while he was in Istanbul’s Silivri Prison for alleged links to the Gülen movement. The 63-year-old academic refused to undergo cardiac surgery at the hospital, assuming that he would not be provided proper care in prison during recovery.

Türköne was arrested a month after a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 for “aiding a terrorist organization,” “attempting to overthrow the government and constitutional order” and “membership to an armed terrorist group.” He was handed down a 10 year, six month sentence in 2018 but was released in September 2020 after an appeals court overturned the sentence.

Türköne’s retrial started in April 2021, along with Zaman columnists Şahin Alpay and Ali Bulaç and editor Mehmet Özdemir.

The Zaman daily, which was one of Turkey’s highest circulating newspapers and known for its opposition stance, was taken over by trustees in March 2016 after a court ruling placed it under state control. Police raided the newspaper’s offices in İstanbul and journalists were denied access to internal servers. Editor-in-chief Abdülhamit Bilici was fired.

Its last edition under the old ownership said Turkey’s press had seen one of its “darkest days.” Many journalists working for the daily were later detained and imprisoned on terrorism charges, while others fled the country to escape prosecution.

Turkey is one of the world’s biggest jailers of professional journalists and ranked 153rd among 180 countries in terms of press freedom, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom’s “Jailed and Wanted Journalists in Turkey” database, 174 journalists are behind bars in Turkey and 167 are wanted and either in exile or at large.

Take a second to support SCF on Patreon!