Senior economy editor sentenced to seven-and-a-half years over terror links

The İstanbul 32nd High Criminal Court on Thursday sentenced journalist Harun Çümen to seven-and-a-half years in prison on charges of membership in the Gülen movement.

Çümen, who was a senior economy editor for the now-closed-down Zaman daily, had been in pretrial detention for 16 months

The court ruled for the continuation of his incarceration while the verdict is appealed.

“I am 44 years old, and I’ve never committed an unlawful act in my entire life,” Çümen said in his defense.

SCF has earlier published his story in which he was accused of terrorist links based on no evidence.

Çümen, like thousands of his colleagues who lost their jobs after the government’s crackdown on the free media, was earning a living for his family by doing temporary jobs unrelated to his expertise. He was selling olive oil supplied from his hometown of Manisa to his friends and neighbors.

On the day he was detained, March 7, 2018, he was driving to Keşan, a town near Edirne, to deliver olive oil to his brother-in-law who resides there, figuring he could sell it to his neighbors. When he was stopped by the police along with other two cars in Edirne, there were about 150 kilograms of olive oil in his trunk as indicated in the official report. Çümen along with the people in the two other cars was accused of attempting to flee Turkey. Although Çimen told police officers he was traveling alone, selling olive oil and had no connection to the others, he was unable to convince them. The investigating judge accused him of aiding other people trying to flee the country.

Harun Çümen with his family.

When prosecutors were unable to find any evidence of human smuggling as alleged against Çümen, the file was turned into a journalism case in which he was indicted on terrorism charges.

Çümen told the panel of judges at the first hearing that he would not have been arrested or accused of being a terrorist if he had not gone to Keşan, implying that he was not hiding or attempting to leave Turkey. “I am trying to understand this 311-day absurdity,” Çümen added. He also said there were no investigations into him or outstanding warrants until he was stopped by the police.

As part of a crackdown targeting the Gülen movement, Turkey has closed dozens of media organizations as well as putting hundreds of journalists behind bars.

The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 182 journalists and media workers were in jail as of July 18, 2019. Of those in prison 85 were under arrest pending trial while 98 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. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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