Turkish journalist in US faces arrest warrants over articles, tweets critical of Erdoğan government

Hamit Bilici (C) is seen marching along with other journalists on İstiklal Avenue in İstanbul on October 3, 2015 during a demonstration calling for freedom of the press in Turkey.

An arrest warrant was issued in Turkey for a Turkish journalist who lives in exile in the US over an article he wrote critical of the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the aftermath of major graft probes in 2013 that incriminated senior Turkish officials in an Iran sanctions-busting scheme, Nordic Monitor reported.

Hamit (Abdülhamit) Bilici, a 52-year-old veteran journalist, faces two outstanding arrest warrants issued by Turkish courts and has been the subject of nine criminal investigations by prosecutors for his views critical of the Erdoğan government since 2014.

In an indictment filed for dozens of journalists on April 10, 2017, Istanbul public prosecutor İsmet Bozkurt cited the journalist’s several articles and tweets that apparently bothered the Erdoğan government. He submitted them to the court, claiming they were criminal evidence under the country’s anti-terrorism law.

One of the articles was published on December 21, 2013 in Zaman, at one time Turkey’s most highly circulated daily, as criminal evidence to support multiple charges leveled against the journalist.

In his opinion piece Bilici criticized the government for trying to undermine corruption probes that incriminated then-prime minister and current President Erdoğan, his family members and his business and political associates.

Citing cases from Germany and the US on how senior officials reacted when they were accused of breaking the law, Bilici said Cabinet ministers and senior officials in Turkey should follow the same path, resign and excuse themselves from official duties for the sake of a through and transparent investigation. “Instead of investigating solid allegations, conspiracies about American and Israeli plots were fabricated [by the government]. While all this was being done, ministers accused of serious offenses remained in their positions,” he wrote in an article titled “I’m ashamed.”

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