Turkish gov’t imprisons 8 people for 10 months over their show of solidarity with Zaman journalists

Eight people have been kept in prison over just their demonstration to show their solidarity with journalists by protesting police raid to the Zaman daily in December 14, 2014, in front of the Edirne Courthouse. Two of the jailed 8 people in same situation were released on Wednesday by an Edirne court after their stay in prison for 10 months, according to a report by Kronos online news outlet.

According to the report, the Edirne 2nd High Criminal Court, which tries 26 people who are accused of having alleged links to the Gülen movement, has ruled for the release of Hayriye Tüfekçi Kolbasar and Murat Kolbasar with judicial probation while six will remain in jail. Eighteen people have been tried without detention.

After holding a demonstration protesting Turkish police raided the offices of Zaman daily in front of the Edirne Courthouse in 2014, the arrest warrants were issued for those as part of an investigation targeting the alleged followers of the Gülen movement, and put them in jail for ten months.

Reacting to the prosecutor’s demand, the jailed teacher Ersin Bulut told that ‘ByLock’ is a program that anyone can download and use. “ByLock also has users in Saudi Arabia and Iran. Are the ByLock users in Saudi Arabia and Iran also the members of an organization?” Bulut said.

Bulut also stated that until the July 15 failed coup attempt he was just a teacher in a private school that was under the supervision of the Turkish Ministry of Education. He stressed if it is a crime to work in these institutions, there are thousands of employees.

While Ersin Bulut attended the court hearing in Edirne, other detainees Serkan Uslu, Murat Fındık, Yavuz Yakut, Yusuf Özalp, Hayriye Tüfekçi Kolbasar, Hakkı Yurttaş and Abdulkadir Akyel joined the hearing via video conference.

The prisoner Kolbasar also stated that she was away from her children for more than eight months and underlined that she should take care of her sick child from now on. Murat Fındık also demanded his release as he told that he needs to look after his family in need.

ByLock is a mobile phone application that Turkish authorities believe was widely used as a communication tool among followers of the Gülen movement, which is accused of being behind a failed coup last year. Tens of thousands of civil servants, police officers and businessmen have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt.

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 Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip 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 civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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