Turkish court sentences jailed journalist Soncan to 7,5 years in prison on ‘terror’ charges

Jailed journalist Emre Soncan was detained just after the failed coup on July 15, 2016.

Journalist Emre Soncan, who is among dozens of journalists jailed in the aftermath of a controversial military coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016, has been handed down a prison sentence of seven-and-a-half years on terror charges.

The last hearing of Soncan’s trial was held on Tuesday at the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court which Soncan attended via IT Voice and Image System (SEGBİS) from the notorious Silivri Prison, where he has been jailed for almost two years.

In his defense, Soncan denied the terror charges and asked for his acquittal. However, the court first gave a nine-year sentence to Soncan on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, then reduced it to seven-and-a-half years.

Soncan, 36, used to work for once Turkey’s best-selling Zaman daily, which was closed down by the Turkish government in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt due to its links to the Gülen movement. Soncan mainly covered defense issues and the president’s office.

The journalist was detained 10 days after the coup attempt and was arrested along with 21 other journalists in the same investigation on July 29, 2016. With additional arrests the number rose to 27, and a case was launched against them and two journalists at large. The trial at the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court was concluded on March 8.

The court handed down prison sentences ranging from 25 months to seven years, six months to the 25 journalists on terror charges. The journalists, some of whom used to work for media outlets affiliated with the Gülen movement, are alleged to be followers of the movement.

Toward the end of the trial in which Soncan was charged with membership in a terrorist organization and was awaiting a verdict following his 20-month stay in prison, the judge decided to separate his dossier from the others, saying that there was a new case against him and that he would be tried in new proceedings.

In the new indictment dated Feb. 5, 2018 and accepted by the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court, Soncan is accused of establishing and running a terrorist organization. The reason for the new trial, according to the tr724 news portal, was because of Soncan’s remarks about the Gülen movement in the first hearing of his initial trial.

He said he does not see the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization in the March 29, 2017 hearing when asked about one of his Twitter messages.

In one of the tweets he posted following the coup attempt, the journalist wrote: “I don’t know whether I will be detained for posting this tweet, but I don’t find the claim suggesting that the Gülen movement was behind this cowardly junta to be sensible.”

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 245 journalists and media workers were in jail as of April 4, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 188 were under arrest pending trial while only 57 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 140 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 about 200 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, 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.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and other civil servants since July 2016. Turkey’s interior minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665 people have been arrested. On December 13, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Dec. 2, 2017. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.” (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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