Turkish journalist sentenced to nearly 300 years in prison for smearing al-Qaeda linked jihadists: report

Journalist Hidayet Karaca.

A prominent Turkish journalist who was accused of defaming an al-Qaeda-linked radical group that endorsed Osama bin Laden and called for armed jihad and the beheading of Americans has been sentenced to nearly 300 years in prison, Nordic Monitor reported.

Hidayet Karaca used to run major TV network Samanyolu, which aired coverage critical of the government of Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan before Karaca’s unlawful imprisonment in December 2014, a move that was described by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) as politically motivated. On June 4, 2022 the journalist was sentenced to 297 years, nine months at the end of a trial brought by the government.

According to the ruling, dated November 22, 2022 and issued by the İstanbul 3rd Judgeship of Criminal Enforcement (Istanbul 3.İnfaz Hakimliği), the journalist must serve a total of 318 years, five months in prison when added to his conviction from another bogus case in 2015.

The sentencing sends a chilling message for a press freedom in Turkey, already in shambles, and reinforces the widely held view that negative coverage of jihadist groups aligned with the Erdoğan government is a red line for journalists.

Karaca was kept in jail for one-and-a-half years before the public prosecutor brought charges against him in an indictment filed on July 22, 2016. His trial under case file No.2016/62 was concluded this year with a conviction. The case was launched after the Erdoğan government claimed that Turkish jihadist group Tahşiyeciler, led by Mollah Muhammed (aka Mullah Muhammed el-Kesri; real name Mehmet Doğan), was smeared in a TV series broadcast by Samanyolu TV and that Karaca was responsible for it.

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