Senior economy editor arrested on terrorism charges

Former senior economy editor and the author of a number of books Zafer Özcan (45) was arrested in western Akhisar province on Thursday as part of a crackdown targeting press freedom in Turkey. 

According to eyewitnesses Özcan’s car was stopped by the police after he took his children to school in the morning in Akhisar, and he was told they would search his house before he was detained.

Shortly after his detention, Özcan appeared before a judge who ruled to arrest him on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

Two detention warrants had been issued earlier for Özcan after a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. He was reportedly hiding in his hometown to avoid imprisonment and persecution by the Turkish government.

Özcan was Özgür Düşünce’s economy editor until the newspaper was shut down by a government decree along with some 200 other media outlets during a state of emergency declared a few days after the failed coup.

Özcan started his journalism career at the now-closed, best-selling Zaman daily in 1997. After serving seven years in the newsroom in Istanbul, he started to work for the Aksiyon magazine in 2004.

He joined the Bugün daily as an economy editor in 2004. After the İpek Media Group, which owned Bugün and several other prominent media outlets, was illegally seized by the government in 2015, he continued his journalism career at Özgür Düşünce, established by journalists who for the most part had been fired by government-appointed trustees at İpek. 

Özcan, married with three children, is the author of six books, including biographical interviews with Turkish intellectuals.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 213 journalists and media workers were in jail as of March 8, 2019, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 136 were under arrest pending trial, while only 77 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 167 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey. 

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