Former Zaman daily editor says he is in prison only due to journalistic activities

Journalist Mehmet Kamış

Journalist Mehmet Kamış, the former deputy editor-in-chief of the now-closed Zaman newspaper in Turkey who was arrested in November, has said his journalistic activities are the reason for his imprisonment, Turkish Minute reported, citing the TR724 news website.

Kamış’s son, Alperen, on Wednesday posted the first photo of his father from prison on X. The journalist told his family during their last prison visit that his case file is empty and there is nothing else in it other than his journalistic activities. Kamış said the Supreme Court of Appeals already annulled the sentences handed down to the other journalists who were defendants in the same trial.

“I am in prison only due to my journalistic activities,” he said.

Kamış was arrested on November 23  following his detention in the western province of İzmir by teams from Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization and the organized crime unit of the İzmir Police Department. He was taken to İstanbul, where he was standing trial in absentia and sent to Marmara Prison on the outskirts of İstanbul, where most of Turkey’s political prisoners are incarcerated.

The Zaman daily, which was Turkey’s best-selling newspaper, was closed down by the Turkish government following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 due to its alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement.

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

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.

Altan, Ilıcak and Yazıcı were arrested immediately after the coup attempt and served sentences.

In July 2019 the Supreme Court of Appeals annulled the life sentences handed down to some of the defendants in the trial such as Altan and Ilıcak.

Kamış is facing three aggravated life sentences on coup-related charges and an additional seven-and-a-half years on charges of terrorist organization membership.

Some Zaman journalists who stayed in Turkey were arrested and given lengthy sentences due to their alleged links to the movement, which is labelled as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government. The movement also rejects the terrorism accusation.

Kamış was also among the 54 journalists whose assets were seized by a Turkish court in December due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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.

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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