Turkish gov’t issues detention warrants for 5 more journalists over alleged Gülen links

The Turkish government on Thursday issued detention warrants for five journalists in an investigation into the now-defunct Karşı daily as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

The İstanbul 23rd High Criminal Court accepted an indictment against the owner of Karşı and 10 of its employees on Thursday and ruled for the arrest of Alaaddin Akkaşoğlu, Değer Özergün, Mehmet Aydoğmuş, Onur Kala and Murat Kazancı over their alleged use of the ByLock mobile phone messaging application.

The court also ruled to merge the file of Eren Erdem, jailed former editor-in-chief of the Karşı daily and a former deputy of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) with the case. Erdem was previously standing trial before the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court.

The prosecutor has demanded prison sentences ranging from eight years, six months to 18 years for journalists Ufuk Emin Köroğlu and Özergün, the former editor-in-chief of the now-closed Millet daily, over alleged links to the Gülen movement and for revealing the identity of public officials engaged in counterterrorism operations.

Prison sentences of between seven years, six months and 15 years were demanded by the prosecutor for journalists Akkaşoğlu, Aydoğmuş, Kala, Kazancı and Emrah Direk over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. The prosecutor also asked the court to sentence journalist Kutlu Esendemir to between seven years, six months and 15 years’ imprisonment for willingly lending support to the Gülen movement while not holding membership in it.

The prosecution asked the court to not punish the Karşı daily’s owner Turan Ababey, Emre Erciş and Mehmet Bozkurt, who sought to benefit from the active remorse law. Erciş is known for his close ties to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MİT).

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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