Court rules to keep former Zaman daily editor in pretrial detention

Journalist Mehmet Kamış

An İstanbul court has ruled to keep journalist Mehmet Kamış, the former deputy editor-in-chief of the now-closed Zaman newspaper who was arrested in November, in pretrial detention, the TR724 news website reported on Thursday.

Kamış appeared at a Wednesday hearing in his trial on charges of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” due to his alleged role in a failed coup on July 15, 2016, for which he is facing several aggravated life sentences.

Kamış’s links to the newspaper and an account in his name at Bank Asya, a Turkish bank that was also shut down by government decree, were presented as evidence against him. However, his lawyer said his work for Zaman and his payroll account at Bank Asya were completely legal and cannot be interpreted as terrorist offenses.

“I have no connection or affiliation with any organization,” Kamış said during the hearing, denying the accusations.

The court ruled for the continuation of Kamış’s pretrial detention, adjourning the trial until July 25. He was sent back to Istanbul’s Marmara Prison, formerly known as Silivri Prison, notorious for its high number of political prisoners.

The Zaman daily, which was Turkey’s best-selling newspaper, was closed down by the Turkish government following the coup attempt due to its alleged links to the Gülen movement, a faith-based movement inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen.

The government accuses the movement of masterminding the failed coup, although the movement strongly denies any involvement.

Following the coup attempt the Turkish government accepted such activities as having an account at now-closed Bank Asya, one of Turkey’s largest commercial banks at the time, and working for or subscribing to the Zaman daily or other publications affiliated with the members of the Gülen movement, as benchmarks for identifying and arresting alleged followers of Gülen on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

Before his arrest in November, Kamış was being tried in absentia along with 16 others, mostly journalists from Zaman and other Gülen-affiliated media organizations.

Among the prominent figures in the trial were novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan, former Zaman daily editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanlı, former Today’s Zaman daily editor-in-chief Bülent Keneş and former Zaman design director Fevzi Yazıcı.

Rights groups routinely accuse Turkey of undermining media freedom by arresting journalists and shutting down critical media outlets, especially since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived the failed coup.

Known as one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists, Turkey is ranked 165th in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index, among 180 countries, not far from North Korea, which occupies the bottom of the list.

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