Turkish court sentences Cumhuriyet daily’s Güven to 3 years in jail

Journalist Oğuz Güven.

An İstanbul court on Tuesday handed daily Cumhuriyet’s internet chief editor Oğuz Güven to 3 years and 1 month in prison for a single Tweet message that was deemed as “terror propaganda” by Turkish government under the rule of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

It was reported that the court has accepted some sharings related to the Gülen movement as evidence  of “terror propaganda.”

An İstanbul prosecutor had demanded a 15-year sentence for Cumhuriyet daily website editor Oğuz Güven, who was jailed between May 15, 2017 and June 14, 2017 for allegedly disseminating the propaganda of a “terrorist organisation.”

Prosecutor Orhan Uzun had argued for a prison sentence of between two years, nine months and 12 years, nine months for a tweet that appeared on the newspaper’s Twitter account for 55 seconds concerning the death of Denizli Chief Prosecutor Mustafa Alper in an accident in Turkey’s western province of Denizli, accusing Güven of “disseminating the propaganda” of the faith-based Gülen movement.

Turkish autocratic President Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) accuse the Gülen movement of masterminding a failed coup on July 15, 2016. The movement strongly denies any connection to the coup attempt.

The critical Cumhuriyet daily has long been a target for Erdoğan and the government. An İstanbul court on Sept. 25 ruled for the release of Cumhuriyet daily journalist Kadri Gürsel and for the continuation of pretrial detention for four other journalists.

The charges brought against 17 Cumhuriyet employees in an April indictment accuse them of aiding the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) and the Gülen movement. Earlier in July, the court released Güray Öz, Musa Kart, Bülent Utku, Hakan Kara, Önder Çelik, Turhan Günay and Mustafa Kemal Güngör and continued the pretrial detention of Akın Atalay, Murat Sabuncu, Kadri Gürsel, Ahmet Şık and Emre İper.

Arrest warrants for Cumhuriyet’s former Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar and US-based journalist İlhan Tanır are still outstanding.

The suspects were arrested by the İstanbul 9th Penal Court of Peace on Nov. 5, 2016. Atalay was detained at İstanbul Atatürk Airport upon his return from Germany and subsequently arrested on Nov. 12, 2016. Cumhuriyet reporter Şık was also detained on Dec. 22 and arrested on Dec. 30, 2016 on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda.

Dündar earlier moved to Germany after President Erdoğan personally targeted him for a sensational report in Cumhuriyet about alleged illegal arms deliveries by Turkey to opposition groups in Syria.

Meanwhile, journalist Selman Keleş, a reporter for Dicle Media News Agency (dihaber) that was shut down with a statutory decree, and Arif Aslan who had been jailed 8 months ago in the scope of a lawsuit accusing them of “membership to a terrorist organization, were released on Tuesday.

First hearing in the case has been held at the 5th High Crimal Court in Van province on Tuesday. Both journalists have been released from prison.

Turkey was ranked 155th among 180 countries in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on April 26. The US-based Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world, named Turkey as among the countries that have a “not free” press, in a report released on April 28.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Centre for Freedom (SCF) has showed that 256 journalists and media workers are now in jails as of November 21, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 230 are arrested pending trial, only 26 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 135 journalists who live 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 more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.

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