Turkish prosecutor files new charges against 4 Zaman journalists

A prosecutor has filed new charges against four journalists who worked for the Zaman newspaper, which was seized on March 4, 2016 and then closed down by the Turkish government under a state of emergency declared in the aftermath of a coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

According to a report by independent news site P24, an İstanbul prosecutor changed the charges against Zaman night-shift editor İbrahim Karayeğen, editor Mehmet Özdemir and columnists Orhan Kemal Cengiz and İhsan Dağı, all of whom were previously accused of membership in a terrorist organization and playing a role in the coup.

Karayeğen and Özdemir, who had previously been accused of “attempting to destroy the constitutional order,” carrying a prison sentence of up to 15 years, are now charged with “leading an armed terrorist group,” which could lead to a sentence of up to 22 years, six months.

The prosecutor in the cases against Cengiz and Dağı changed the charges to “continuous propaganda for a terror organization” and requested a 13-year sentence for both.

A total of 30 columnists and staff members of Zaman, once one of Turkey’s highest circulating newspapers, are now on trial.

Meanwhile, İshak Karakaş, editor-in-chief of Halkın Nabzı newspaper, who was arrested due to his social media posts against Turkish military’s Afrin operation, was released by a Turkish court on Tuesday. The  İstanbul 28th High Criminal Court  ruled for international travel ban and release Karakaş on judicial probation.

Beside of Karakaş Abdullah Yeşilbağdan, Yücel Üney, Yaşar Yılmaz Altunbilek, Ömer karakurt, Tarkan Aktan, Murat Demir, Cevdet Taş and Ahmet Alanç, who were detained over the same accusations, were also relased. Karakaş and other nine people were detained by police on January 22, 2018 and later arrested by a Turkish court.

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Wednesday. 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 254 journalists and media workers were in jail as of May 3, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 192 were under arrest pending trial while only 62 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 142 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 the coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

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