Journalist, human rights activist Cengiz faces life sentence despite the lack of any evidence

Lawyer, journalist and human rights activist Orhan Kemal Cengiz.

Turkish lawyer, journalist and human rights activist Orhan Kemal Cengiz is facing consecutive life sentence on coup charges along with 29 other Zaman daily journalists and executives, although he was not a columnist for Zaman, news website Aktifhaber reported on Wednesday.

According to the report, despite the fact that the headlines of articles of columnists Ahmet Turan Alkan, Ali Bulaç, Nuriye Akman, İhsan Dağı, Şahin Alpay, Mümtaz’er Türköne and Lale Kemal were mentioned in the 64-page indictment, no article by Cengiz was cited. The columnists are accused of engaging in “perception engineering” by means of their articles.

The Zaman daily, which was affiliated with the faith-based Gülen movement, was first seized by the Turkish government in March 4, 2016 and then closed down by government decree in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The government holds the Gülen movement responsible for the coup, a charge strongly rejected by the movement.

There are a total of 30 suspects in the indictment, 21 of whom are currently in jail. Mümtaz’er Türköne, Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç, Ahmet Metin Sekizkardeş, Ahmet Turan Alkan, Alaattin Güner, Cuma Kaya, Faruk Akkan, Hakan Taşdelen, Hüseyin Belli, Hüseyin Turan, İbrahim Karayeğen, İsmail Küçük, Mehmet Özdemir, Murat Avcıoğlu, Mustafa Ünal, Onur Kutlu, Sedat Yetişkin, Şeref Yılmaz, Yüksel Durgut, Zafer Özsoy Tutuklu, Ahmet İrem, Ali Hüseyinçelebi, Süleyman Sargın, Osman Nuri Arslan, Osman Nuri Öztürk, Lalezer Sarıibrahimoğlu, Nuriye Ural and Orhan Kemal Cengiz are mentioned as suspects in the indictment.

Professor İhsan Duran Dağı, who used to work as a columnist for Zaman, is named as a fugitive in the indictment.

İstanbul Public Prosecutor İsmet Bozkurt, who drafted the indictment, is seeking three consecutive life sentences for the Zaman staff on charges of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, the Turkish Parliament and the Turkish government and a jail sentence from seven-and-a-half years up to 15 years on charges of membership in an armed terror organization.

The court is expected to review the indictment within 15 days and either approve or reject it.
If the indictment is approved by the court, the Zaman journalists and executives are expected to soon appear in court.

The indictment mentions excerpts from the columns of some Zaman journalists such as Ali Bulaç, Ali Ünal and Mümtaz’er Türköne as their support for the coup.

As of April 1, 2017, Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), a Stockholm-based monitoring and rights advocacy group, has confirmed that 228 journalists and media workers are behind bars in Turkey, a new world record by any measure. Of these journalists, 194 are arrested pending trial and without a conviction. 13 jailed journalists have been re-detained just after they were released by an İstanbul court on March 31, 2017. Most of the journalists do not even know what the charges are or what evidence, if any, the government has because the indictments were not filed yet.

The Turkish government is apparently using arbitrary arrests as part of intimidation campaign to suppress critical coverage, muzzle independent media and silence journalists. Only 21 journalists who are in jail were convicted while the rest are in abusive and long pre-trial detentions. Moreover, sweeping detention warrants have been issued for at least 100 journalists who are forced to live in exile abroad or remain at large in Turkey.

The military coup attempt on July 15 killed over 240. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement despite the lack of any evidence to that effect.

Although the Gülen movement strongly denies having any role in the putsch, the government accuses it of having masterminded it. Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, 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 Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on April 2, a total of 113,260 people have been detained as part of investigations into the Gülen movement since the July 15 coup attempt, while 47,155 were put into pre-trial detention. (SCF with turkishminute.com) April 13, 2017

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