Jailed Turkish journalist Hidayet Karaca reportedly put in solitary confinement

Journalist Hidayet Karaca.

Hidayet Karaca, a jailed Turkish journalist and the former chairman of the now-closed Samanyolu Broadcasting Group, has reportedly been put into solitary confinement following now-closed Zaman daily columnist Mümtaz’er Türköne and Zaman daily’s renowned art director Fevzi Yazıcı.

Karaca, who has been held in notorious Silivri Prison in İstanbul more than three years and sentenced bu an İstanbul court to 31 years and 6 months imprisonment over a scenario of soap opera which was broadcasted by Samanyolu TV, has been put into solitary confinement while he has been struggling to cope with his deteriorated health and psychological conditions, according to a report by online news portal Aktif Haber on Tuesday.

The report said that Karaca’s transfer to a one-man-cell without a legal reason has been aimed at conducting more psychological pressure over him. The solitary confinement has been used frequently by the despotic regime of Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a method of punishment in prisons across Turkey. It was widely reported that, especially, jailed judges and prosecutors, who have been put in prisons for 17 months over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, have usually been punished by keeping them in solitary confinement for a long period of time without trial.

Karaca was sentenced by Turkish government to 31 years in prison last month on charges of membership in a terrorist organization and for allegedly slandering the al-Qaeda-affiliated radical Islamist group Tahşiyeciler.

In an operation on Dec. 14, 2014, former Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı, Karaca and a number of soap opera scriptwriters and police officers were detained on charges of terrorism and membership in an organization that conspired against Tahşiyeciler based on a speech by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen in 2009 in which the scholar warned against a group that “might” be called Tahşiyeciler and whose leader, Mehmet Doğan, had publicly praised Osama bin Laden.

The prosecutors who ordered the Dec. 14 detentions claim that following Gülen’s speech, Dumanlı ordered two columnists to write about Tahşiyeciler and that he published a news report on the speech. The allegations also claim that Samanyolu TV made implications about the group in an episode of a soap opera it broadcast. It was further claimed that the police then “unfairly” raided the group.

Previous reports by police intelligence, military intelligence and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) had described Tahşiyeciler as a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda.

In a 2009 live broadcast on CNN Türk TV, the leader of the Tahşiyeciler group stated that he liked former al-Qaeda head Osama bin Laden.

On May 23, 2016 Mustafa Kaplan, a complainant in the case, admitted having written a book that praises suicide bombers.

The lawyers for the defendants asked Kaplan if a book titled “Reddül Evham” was written by him and he agreed that the book was his. Then the lawyers asked if he supported suicide bombers as the book does, and Kaplan answered, “I support whatever the book says.”

The lawyers reminded the court that the book says it is permissible for a suicide bomber to blow himself up even if there is a Muslim child in the area where he detonates himself.

In June 2016, Robert Mariani, United States judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, dropped a case against Gülen, stating that there were no grounds for the claims brought to the court by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The AKP had hired Amsterdam & Partners to have Gülen prosecuted in the US, claiming that members of a group called Tahşiyeciler in Turkey were unlawfully arrested in the past due to Gülen’s influence within the Turkish police force. Judge Mariani found the Turkish government’s allegations “coincidental and baseless.”

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 244 journalists and media workers are in jails as of December 26, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 217 are arrested pending trial, only 27 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 139 journalists who live 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 more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.

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