Journalists Çapan, Ulu and Olgun sent behind the bars in Turkey

Journalists Cevheri Güven (R) and Murat Çapan.

The managing editor of the now-closed Nokta magazine journalist Murat Çapan, who was sentenced to 22 years, six months in prison for two cover stories on May  22, was arrested by an İstanbul court and sent to prison on Friday.

Çapan was caught in Turkey’s border province of Edirne along with one purged academic, two purged teachers, a retired police chief and three children while they were attempting to illegally leave Turkey for Greece on Monday.

The İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court handed down a sentence of 22 years, six months to both Nokta magazine’s editor-in-chief Cevheri Güven and the managing editor Çapan on Monday with charge of “inciting people to armed revolt against the Turkish government.” Güven has already been in exile for some time.

Nokta, which specialized in in-depth investigative reporting, was closed by the Turkish government on July 27, 2016, along with 130 other media outlets in Turkey.

Journalist Gökmen Ulu

Meanwhile, Sözcü daily reporter Gökmen Ulu and online manager Mediha Olgun, who were detained in an operation last week, have been arrested over alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15.

A third employee, finance manager Yonca Yücekaleli, was released by the court.

The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants last week for Sözcü’s license holder, Burak Albay, and three employees. Akbay was reported to be abroad.

A report in the Cumhuriyet daily said last week that the reason for the investigation into Sözcü was the publication of a report on July 15 that aimed at revealing the

Journalist Mediha Olgun

whereabouts of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was in the western holiday resort of Marmaris at the time.

They are accused of “membership in a terrorist organization and committing crimes on behalf of the organization” and “armed insurgency against the Turkish government.”

Representatives of bar associations, the Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC) and the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS) along with main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies, journalists and readers protested the detentions in front of the Istanbul Courthouse on Friday.

The Sözcü daily last Saturday published a totally blank edition with the headline “May 19 press freedom special edition” to protest detention warrants issued the previous day for its owner and three of its employees.

Leader of the main opposition CHP Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu lashed out the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government for the operation against the leading opposition newspaper. “We are faced with a dictatorial administration. The operation against Sözcü is an operation against Turkey,” he said.

The European Union last week expressed concerns about the operation in İstanbul targeting the Sözcü daily.

“The EU is worried about the police operation conducted today in Istanbul targeting journalists of daily Sözcü and their staff members, and on the selective and arbitrary application of anti-terror legislation, which have a grave impact on freedom of expression,” Maja Kocijancic, EU spokesperson, said in response to a question concerning the operation against Sözcü.

Turkey is the leading jailer of journalists in the world. The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 264 journalists are now in jails as of May 27, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 241 are arrested pending trial, only 23 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 105 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 coup attempt.

The coup attempt on July 15, 2016 killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

According to a statement from Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ on May 6, 149,833 people have been investigated and 48,636 have been jailed as part of an investigation targeting the Gülen movement since the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey. (SCF with & May 26, 2017

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