An indictment prepared by an İstanbul prosecutor seeks three consecutive life sentences for 30 individuals who include journalists and executives from the now-closed Zaman daily on coup charges.
The Zaman daily, which was affiliated with the faith-based Gülen movement, was first seized by the Turkish government in March 2016 and the closed down by a 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 jailed. Mümtazer 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 ve 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 cited as a fugitive in the indictment.
İstanbul Public Prosecutor İsmet Bozkurt, who wrote 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 7,5 years up to 15 years on charges of being members of an armed terror organization.
Former Zaman executives Hüseyin Gülerce and Nurettin Veren are cited as witnesses in the indictment, which has been approved by the İstanbul deputy chief public prosecutor İsmail Uçar and sent to the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court.
The court is expected to review the indictment in 15 days and either approve or reject it. If the indictment is approved by the court, the Zaman journalists and executives are expected to appear before a court soon.
The indictment mentions excerpts from the columns of some Zaman journalists such as Ali Bulaç, Ali Ünal, Mümtaz’er Türköne as their support for 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 people. 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 the foiled coup. 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 11, 2017