Turkish court rules for continuation of TRT employees’ imprisonment over alleged Gülen links

A court in Ankara ruled on Wednesday for a continuation of the imprisonment of nine dismissed employees of Turkey’s state broadcaster TRT during a hearing in the trial of 44 former TRT employees over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, prosecutor Cemalettin Şimşek requested that the court sentence 42 TRT employees to up to 15 years in prison during a hearing at the Ankara 22nd High Criminal Court.

Among the TRT employees for whom Şimşek demanded up to 15 years are Hamza Günerigök, Abdullah Yeldan, Ahmet Çat, Ahmet Özdemir, Ali Hancı, Ayhan Baykara, Beşir Elmas, Cumali Çaygeç, Enes Bora, Ertan Rıdha, Eşref Üzüm, Evren Kara, Eyüp Keser, Koray Demirci, Mehmet Akif Öztürk, Mehmet Salih Helvacı, Niyazi Özkan, Orhan Tokmak, Osman Taha Sirkeci, Özkan Püsküllü, Selçuk Çelik, Serkan Canbaz, Sezai Yavaş, Sinan Güneş, Şaban Harman, Tuğral Çakır, Yunus Ayhan, İbrahim Öztürk, Hüseyin Arslan, Murat Karaca, Hakan Karaca, Ali Fuat Ayhan, Özgür Aksoy, Salih Üzer, Nurdan Ayşe Coşkun, Kubilay Süslü, Şefik Cürebal, Ali Suat Günek, Emrah Timuçin Yazıcı, Mehmet Kuş and Safiye Tokgöz.

Şimşek also asked that the court apply the “effective rumors rule” to defendant Murat Kaban as he had separated the files of Sultan Öztürk and Sedat Turhan.

Following the requests of the defendants and their lawyers for extra time to prepare their defense, the court decided for the continuation of imprisonment of the nine TRT employees and adjourned the trial until Feb. 25, 2019.

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 October 17, 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 148 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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