Evrensel’s Karataş, Sözcü’s Olgun released from jail by Turkish courts

Journalist Yusuf Karataş

Yusuf Karataş, a columnist of Evrensel daily newspaper, has been released from the jail by Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court on Friday.

Columnist Yusuf Karataş had been put in pre-trial arrest as part of an investigation into the Democratic People’s Congress (DTK), the largest political forum gathering held by Kurdish non-governmental organizations in the recent past.

Diyarbakır 1st Penal Court of Peace had decided to arrest journalist Karataş for attending DTK’s gatherings and sent him to Diyarbakır D Type prison. Tugay Bek, a lawyer representing Karataş, had said the investigation in question was carried out in between 2009 and 2013. DTK lays out main principles of Kurdish demand for self-rule in Turkey’s southeast.

Also on Friday, journalist Mediha Olgun, managing editor of Sözcü daily’s website, was also released from the prison where she was kept for 120 days, with judicial probation.

Meanwhile, staunchly Erdoğanist-Islamist columnist Ahmet Taşgetiren has announced that he resigned from the pro-government Star daily following a censorship to his regular column, according to a report by Bianet. Announcing his resignation on Twitter account, Taşgetiren said that he shared his decision of leaving Star with Executive Board President Ahmet Bayraktutar with the following message:

“Amid the recent discussions I’ve come to learn that editorial department of the newspaper has taken side between disputing writers, the unfair articles of Mehmet Metiner and Hüseyin Gülerce targeting me were published on the first page on Thursday, and it was decided that my article responding to these pieces be not published. I believe this attitude is unfair and unethical. For this reason, I’ve decided to not write at Star anymore.”

With respect to government defending former Minister Zafer Çağlayan, who was mentioned in the December 17-25 corruption investigation, Taşgetiren wrote “We are not comfortable with being asked to accept the corruption files that are symbolized with the wristwatch by calling them a ‘national matter’”. Upon this article, Ahmet Kekeç, Gülerce and Metiner wrote pieces against Taşgetiren.

Taşgetiren has claimed in his article that wasn’t published by the Star daily that “There is an organization against me. It started with the likes of Cem Küçük at TGRT Tv. Attack on Taşgetiren continues at Star daily. In his latest article, Hüseyin Gülerce stated that he was also the part of this organization. He will feel ashamed of this article. I won’t say another thing.

“As for Metiner…Thanks Allah he is now at the AK Party (Justice and Development Party) and around [President Recep] Tayyip Erdoğan. May Allah protect everyone from February 28 [military memorandum] bulldozer sweeping over their minds. People are driven away. Sometimes they become radical Islamist, sometimes they are appointed as co-chair of a socialist pro-Kurdish party, sometimes they go back and forth between Sharia and Democracy, sometimes they say ‘If I have to submit, then I submit’… I wish they’ve settled down.”

A row erupted among Star columnists when Taşgetiren accused former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan of reaping unearned profits as his name was among suspects, along with former Interior Minister Muammer Güler and former EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış, in a graft probe in December 2013.

While Taşgetiren wrote that Çağlayan, who was also recently indicted in the US along with several others who were also suspects in the 2013 investigation, must be held to account, the other Star columnists accused Taşgetiren of being against the AKP government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced on Sept. 7 the filing of a superseding indictment charging Çağlayan and three others with conspiring to use the US financial system to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of transactions on behalf of the government of Iran and other Iranian entities barred by US sanctions.

The superseding Indictment further alleges that Çağlayan’s co-defendants – Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, aka Rıza Sarraf, Halkbank executive Mehmet Hakan Atilla, Mohammad Zarrab, Camelia Jamshidy, aka Kamelia Jamshidy, and Hossein Najafzadeh, who previously were charged in this case with the same offenses – participated in the same crimes.

US authorities arrested Zarrab in Miami in March on charges of helping Iran process millions of dollars of transactions when it faced US sanctions for its nuclear program.

Atilla was also arrested in New York City in late March on similar charges to those of Zarrab.

Zarrab was the prime suspect in a graft probe in 2013, along with others from the inner circle of the AKP government and the then-Prime Minister and present-President Erdoğan, for having paid bribes to Cabinet-level officials, including Çağlayan and Halkbank General Manager Aslan, to facilitate transactions benefiting Iran.

After Erdoğan cast the case as a coup attempt to overthrow his government orchestrated by his political enemies, several prosecutors were removed from the case, police were reassigned and the investigation against Zarrab was dropped.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has showed that 284 journalists and media workers are now in jails as of September 18, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 259 are arrested pending trial, only 25 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 135 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 controversial coup attempt. Turkey’s Contemporary Journalists’ Association (ÇGD) recently announced that more than 900 press cards were cancelled.

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