Prosecutor demands sentences for journalists in retrial due to Gülen links

A public prosecutor in the retrial of seven journalists has demanded prison sentences for them on terrorism-related charges due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA).

The  latest hearing in the retrial of journalists Ahmet Memiş, Ali Akkuş, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Ünal Tanık, Yakup Çetin and Yetkin Yıldız was held on Thursday at the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court. They face charges of membership in a terrorist organization due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup in July 2016, a claim strongly denied by the movement.

The journalists had previously been convicted of membership in the Gülen movement and sentenced to prison. The Supreme Court of Appeals in early 2020 said the defendants’ actions did not constitute sufficient evidence to prove their affiliation with the group.

The prosecutor, during Thursday’s hearing, announced in his opinion that journalists Memiş, Akkuş, Kalyoncu and Çulpaoğlu should be sentenced for “deliberately aiding and abetting a terrorist organization” and not for membership in a terrorist organization, saying that no concrete evidence has been collected proving their membership in the Gülen movement.

The prosecutor, however, demanded the conviction of journalists Çetin, Yıldız and Tanık on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

The trial was adjourned until September 24.

The journalists deny any links to the Gülen movement and say their actions considered to be criminal were within the limits of journalism.

The journalists, who worked for media outlets affiliated with the Gülen movement, were arrested after a 2016 coup attempt for which Turkish authorities blamed the movement.

Their tweets and news reports were presented as evidence in the indictment.

There were initially 25 defendants in the trial.

One of the defendants in the trial, Atilla Taş, a former singer who became a journalist, took his case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). The court unanimously ruled in January 2021 that there had been a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights’ Article 5 § 1 on the right to liberty and security as well as a violation of Article 10, which concerns freedom of expression, in Taş’s case.

Taş had been kept in pretrial detention for 14 months following the coup attempt due to tweets and articles written by him.

Turkey is one of the world’s biggest jailers of professional journalists and was ranked 165th among 180 countries in terms of press freedom in 2023, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

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