Turkish daily Evrensel chief editor called to testify over Zarakolu column

Fatih Polat, the editor-in-chief of Turkish daily newspaper Evrensel

Fatih Polat, editor-in-chief of the Evrensel newspaper, has said he was summoned to testify with respect to a column written by journalist Ragıp Zarakolu that drew the ire of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Zarakolu’s column, titled “No escape from ill fate” and published in Evrensel and on the Artı Gerçek news website on May 5, 2020, drew parallels between Erdoğan and former Turkish Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, who was hanged by a military junta after a coup in 1960.

President Erdoğan’s lawyer filed a criminal complaint against Zarakolu on May 6 over the column, accusing him of “instigating a military coup d’état.”

In the complaint, Erdoğan’s lawyer claimed that Zarakolu openly threatened the Turkish president with a military coup and execution, demanding that authorities investigate and charge him with crimes against the constitutional order and the president.

Polat, sharing the news on his social media account, said: “I and our [editor] Görkem Kınacı were summoned by the police to give depositions due to a column written by Ragıp Zarakolu that had simultaneously appeared in Evrensel and on the Artı Gerçek news website and that contained not a single sentence supporting a coup. We will be there on Thursday with our lawyer.”

Charges of terrorism, defamation and coup involvement are widely used by the government in Turkey to imprison critical and independent journalists without evidence of any crime.

Turkey under the Erdoğan government has been a worldwide leader in the jailing of journalists in recent years. According to advocacy group the Stockholm Center for Freedom, which monitors press freedom in Turkey, 165 journalists are currently behind bars in Turkish prisons. The SCF data also show 167 journalists have been forced to live in exile.

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