Turkish court sentences 10 TRT journalists to prison over alleged links to Gülen movement

A Turkish court on Wednesday sentenced 10 journalists who used to work for Turkish public broadcaster TRT to between six years, three months and eight years, nine months in prison, part of the trial of 20 TRT employees who were fired over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, the Ankara 23rd High Criminal Court sentenced TRT journalists Hasan Taşar, Hasan Hüseyin Örs and İbrahim Halil Öztürkeri to eight years, nine months’ imprisonment on charges of membership in the Gülen movement. The court also sentenced journalist Özden Kınık to eight years, one month and 15 days on the same charge and ruled for the continuation of three of the journalists’ imprisonment during appeal.

TRT employees Kemal Erdem, Hasan Basri Erden, Mehmet Ali Öget and Mustafa Ünal were also handed down seven years, six months each, while İdris Selçuk was given six years, three months in prison. The court also gave A.F., a TRT employee who sought to benefit from the active remorse law, a suspended sentence of one year, six months and 22 days.

While TRT employee Hanife Sayılır was acquitted by the court, the files of Cavit Atasever, Cihangir Çetin, Hüsamettin Kıroğlu, Murat Kirti, Mustafa Altıntaş, Mustafa Beyhan, Mustafa Yazkan, Osman Zeybek and Servet Dağ were separated from the the case. These journalists will be tried in separate proceedings.

Meanwhile, another Turkish court sentenced the former editor of the Cumhuriyet daily website to six months in prison for insulting the Prophet Muhammad by reproducing a cartoon.

Oğuz Güven told the court he had removed the content, taken from French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and reproduced in relation to a news story about his colleagues being prosecuted for using it, within 15 minutes of it going online.

He was sentenced on charges of “provoking a segment of society to hatred and enmity” on the basis of religion. Güven called the case idiotic and said the decision to sentence him had already been made in advance and the judiciary was browbeaten into accepting it.

Güven’s colleagues Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Çetinkaya had previously been given two-year sentences for publishing the cartoon in the Cumhuriyet daily.

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 240 journalists and media workers were in jail as of July 24, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 179 were under arrest pending trial while only 61 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 144 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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