Jailed Zaman columnist Türköne seen with daughter in first photo from Turkish prison

Sıla Türköne, the daughter of jailed Turkish columnist and political scientist Mümtaz’er Türköne, has said her father will celebrate yet a third birthday in the notorious Silivri Prison in İstanbul, sharing a photo with her father taken during a prison visit.

The İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court on July 6, 2018 sentenced Zaman journalists Türköne and Mustafa Ünal 10 years and six months in prison, while İbrahim Karayeğen was given 9 years, and Ahmet Turan Alkan, Şahin Alpay and Ali Bulaç were handed down sentences of 8 years and 9 months each. The court also decided to release Alkan and Karayeğen pending appeal. Türköne and Ünal are still incarcerated.

“In four days my father will celebrate yet a third birthday in prison,” Türköne’s daughter tweeted on Thursday, attaching a photo taken with her father that said, “This is the photo that the [Silivri] prison administration allowed us to take after two years [of his being held there]. May God Bless You!”

Türköne in his final remarks in court on July 6 said he had given lectures on the constitutional order as an academic for 38 years, but now, after being accused of attempting to overthrow that order, he would put an end to his political career and start to write novels.

International organizations including the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI) on July 7 reacted strongly to the ruling of the Turkish court, calling for their immediate release.

Zaman, which was Turkey’s best-selling newspaper, was taken over by the government in March 2016 and then closed down in the aftermath of the failed coup. Zaman had angered the government with its critical stance and extensive coverage of a corruption scandal that erupted in late 2013. In its statement RSF summarized the court cases against Zaman journalists as follows:

“The charges against the columnists stem essentially from their work for Zaman, the country’s highest-circulation daily before it was placed under state control, and then shuttered by decree in 2016… That was enough to accuse anyone who worked for Zaman of ‘membership in a terrorist organization’ or of ‘attempting to overthrow the government and constitutional order.’ These charges were filed without slightest evidence of individual participation in violent acts or attempts to justify them. In the logic of the charges, if the columnists covered scandals in which the government was implicated, or criticized its drift toward authoritarianism, the goal was to create a ‘perception’ favouring a coup.”

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 turkeypurge.com)

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