Turkish court releases journalist Uğur Sağındık but rules for house arrest

A Turkish court on Wednesday decided to release journalist Uğur Sağındık, an editor for now-closed Zaman daily, from pretrial detention but ruled that he be kept under house arrest due to his alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Antalya Chief Public Prosecutor Ali Güllü had launched an investigation into Sağındık, and he was detained by police on April 27, 2018. The second hearing in Sağındık’s trial was held at the İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court on Wednesday. The court ruled for Sağındık’s release from jail but decided to put him under house arrest. His trial was also delayed.

Sağındık has been accused of propagandizing on behalf of the Gülen movement and is charged with membership in an “armed terrorist organization,” with eight of his tweets demonstrating solidarity with persecuted journalists and media organs in Turkey the sole evidence for his alleged crime.

Sağındık has also been accused of working for the private Cihan news agency and the Zaman daily, having his salary deposited his account at the now-closed Bank Asya and being a member of the Pak-Media Labour Union.

The Zaman daily and Cihan news agency, which were affiliated with the Gülen movement, were first unlawfully seized by the Turkish government on March 4, 2016, and then closed down by government decree in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt in July 2016. Dozens of Zaman and Cihan journalists have been jailed on coup charges since the coup attempt.

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 237 journalists and media workers were in jail as of September 2, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 169 were under arrest pending trial while only 68 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 145 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

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