Court seeks revocation of Turkish journalist Öğütçü’s citizenship

Journalist Bilal Öğütçü speaks during a protest in Adana, a day after a police raid on the Zaman daily headquarters on Dec. 14, 2014.

A high criminal court in the southern province of Adana on Saturday applied to Turkey’s Justice Ministry demanding revocation of the citizenship of journalist Bilal Öğütçü over terror charges.

The Adana representative of the Zaman newspaper and the Cihan news agency until they were shut down by the government in the aftermath of a July 15, 2016 coup attempt, Öğütçü faces 15 years in prison on accusations of membership in the Gülen movement.

The government pinned the blame for the coup attempt on the movement, describing the group as a terrorist organization. Dozens of media outlets including Zaman and Cihan were earlier shuttered over their links to the movement, which denies the terror and coup accusations.

With Judge Nurullah Bodur presiding, the court asked for the revocation of Öğütçü’s citizenship based on a post-coup emergency decree issued in January, of this year.

According to government decree No. 680, individuals who are facing administrative or judicial investigation or prosecution over charges of “crimes against the government,” “armed rebellion against the government,” “armed attack and assassination of the president” or “membership in an armed terror organization” will be summoned by prosecutors to testify. If they cannot be reached and are understood to be abroad, the public prosecutor will refer the case to the Justice Ministry within a month.

The Justice Ministry will then issue a “return home” notice in the Official Gazette for those who are overseas. If they fail to respond to the call within three months, their citizenship will be revoked by Cabinet decision upon a proposal from the Justice Ministry.

Last week, the government released a list of 130 people who are currently abroad including Turkish-Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and three pro-Kurdish deputies who will be stripped of citizenship if they do not return to the country within three months.

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 June 11, 2017

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