Turkish page designer, artist Babür Boysal faces over 20-year jail over baseless complaint

A newspaper page designer and talented artist has been locked up behind bars for 391 days over trumped up terror charges because he was reported to be questioning the government narrative on the failed coup bid of July 15, 2016.

Babür Boysal

Babür Boysal, 39-year-old journalist who had worked at the art department of Zaman Newspaper, one time Turkey’s best-selling daily, was arrested on October 10, 2016 after he was reported to be critical of the government story line on coup events.

According to the witnesses’ accounts, Boysal were in a conversation with a circle of friends in his hometown in Adana, a southwestern province in Turkey, when he commented that the controversial coup attempt may very well be a plot against the nation. A man who had a personal grudge against him reported this conversation to the police, claiming that he is a member of FETÖ [a derogatory term coined by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and Erdoğan to refer to the alleged members of the Gülen movement] and that he was insulting the government in public.

The police immediately took action and raided Boysal’s home in İstanbul where young journalist resided. He was formally arrested on October 10, 2016. Boysal’s case is a tip of the iceberg in mass persecution in Turkey where critics and opponents of the government were whisked away from their homes on little or no evidence. The witch hunt has escalated to jail hundreds of journalists from all walks of life on fabricated terror and coup charges.

Babür Boysal’s one of the layout experiments as he was a 5th class student at a primary school.

The indictment that asks up to 22,5 years sentence in jail against Boysal claims that he has ties to cadets studying in a high school in western province Balıkesir that train non-commissioned officers. However, the public prosecutor fails to present any evidence to support this allegation and does not explain how he came up with this assertion.

Instead, purported evidence in the indictment include the following:

1) Boysal’s accounts at Bank Asya that is affiliated with the Gülen movement which was one of the three banks with the highest liquidity in Turkey. The government unlawfully took over the bank on February 4, 2015, contrary to strict statutory banking regulations against such a drastic move. The bank, which had 210 branches, 5,000 employees and around 1,5 million clients, was founded on October 24, 1996 upon formal approval from the regulators. It has operated under the supervision of the independent regulatory bodies in Turkey that were responsible for overseeing the banking sector. It was a popular bank.

2) Being an employee at Zaman newspaper that was first seized by the government in March 2016 and later shut down in July 2016 by the government decision as part of unprecedented crackdown on critical and independent media outlets in Turkey.

3) Being a member of a journalists’ union, namely, Pak-İş Medya Sendikası which was shut down by the government following controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The union was duly registered entity, recognized by the government and authorized to organize union work and recruit memberships among media professionals, journalists and authors.

A recent report published by Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has revealed the absurd pretexts used by prosecutors to indict suspects and judges to jail innocent people who are alleged to have been affiliated with the Gülen movement. Thus, the report finds that the fundamental principles of law such as “no crime without law,” “individual criminal responsibility,” “the ban on retroactive criminal laws,” “a requirement qualifying the commission of an offense” and “equal protection under the law” have explicitly, intentionally, widely and systematically been violated.

Boysal who appeared before the judges for the first time on June 6, 2017, some 10 months after he was formally arrested, expressed his shock over the alleged relations with military cadets. He said he had been living in İstanbul for almost 15 years, 320 kilometres away from Balıkesir where the military school located. He rejected accusations altogether. He told he was arrested over a complaint by a man who has a grudge against him.

“There is no solid evidence against me for being a member of a terror organization. The place where I worked was a legally operating newspaper, the union of which I was a member was a legal union authorized by the government. I had Bank Asya account simply because my payroll payment was deposited at that bank by the company,” Boysal said during the hearing.

The court did not take Boysal’s testimony into account and ruled for the continuation of his arrest.

Babür Soysal was a graduate of Communications Department at Ege University in İzmir in 2000. His ability in graphic design granted a position in the art department of Zaman daily which was a pioneering newspaper that invested a lot in newspaper design and innovation as a part of re-organization in 2003. Soysal was awarded several times for his lay-outs of opinion pages of the paper by the prestigious Society of Newspaper Design (SND), an international organization of design professionals. In 2015, he was appointed as a chief designer of a comic magazine called PÜFF that was published as a supplement of Zaman daily. He also wrote weekly columns.

Babür Boysal’s an acrylic painting named “A 1000-year-old Navajo”

Apart from his media career, Boysal is an artist of oil painting. His paintings appeared in several exhibitions. He is single and looking for days to get released and go back to painting again.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 256 journalists and media workers are in jails as of October 30, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 232 are arrested pending trial, only 24 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 133 journalists who live 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 more than 180 media outlets after the controversial 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 President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

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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