Jailed Turkish journalist Gündem to appear in court for first time in 9 months

Journalist Mehmet Gündem

Jailed Turkish journalist Mehmet Gündem, who was arrested in November 2017 on terror charges, will appear in court for the first time in the nine months of his imprisonment.

Gündem, who used to work as a columnist for the Milliyet daily, was detained on Nov. 1, 2017 along with 44 colleagues as part of an operation against the Journalists and Writers’ Foundation (JWF), which was closed down in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016 over alleged affiliation with the faith-based Gülen movement.

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

Gündem was subsequently arrested by a court on charges of “membership in a terrorist organisation” as the Turkish government labels the Gülen movement as such.

An indictment against the journalists seeks a prison sentence for him of between seven-and-a-half and 15 years on terror charges.

Gündem, who is currently jailed in İstanbul’s notorious Silivri Prison, will for the first time appear in court, the İstanbul 35th High Criminal Court, on Aug. 14, since his arrest.

The journalist was recently visited by lawyers from the P24 Independent Journalism Foundation and completed a questionnaire that aims to expose the problems faced by jailed journalists in the country.

To a question asking whether he was ever visited by a member of parliament, Gündem said “No.”  He also said a ban on writing and receiving letters imposed on him by the prison administration was recently lifted.

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 237 journalists and media workers were in jail as of August 6, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 170 were under arrest pending trial while only 67 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 144 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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