Turkish prosecutor seeks 15 years in prison for jailed journalist Böken over alleged Gülen links

A prosecutor has demanded 15 years in prison for prominent Turkish journalist and veteran TV host Ahmet Böken, who was also former deputy director of the state-run broadcasting company TRT’s News and Sports Directorate and Coordinator of TRT news channel, over his alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Böken, who was arrested just after the controversial military coup on July 15, 2016 and put behind the bars since August 2016 at Ankara’s Sincan Prison, has appeared before Ankara 18th High Criminal Court on Tuesday. Böken has been accused of “being member of a terror organisation.”

Prosecutor Necati Kayaközü has showed Böken’s bright professional carrier in journalism as if it was a crime evidence during his presentation at the court hearing. Kayaközü stated that Böken had started working as a correspondent in the now-closed Zaman newspaper in 1994 and then he was transferred to TRT in 1999 from Samanyolu Broadcasting Group where he was working as general news coordinator.

Prosecutor Kayaközü claimed that Böken has risen rapidly in the TRT, which he started to work as a contractor, and that he was later appointed as the Vice President of the TRT News and Sports Department and the TRT News Channel Coordinator. The prosecutor has also claimed that the news and the content TRT’s broadcasting were shaped in the direction of the Gülen movement.

Prosecutor has also showed Böken’s alleged use of mobile phone messaging applications such as ByLock and KakaoTalk as evidence of his membership to the alleged “terror organisation” beside of his account in the private lender Bank Asya which was seized by the government over his alleged affiliation with the Gülen movement.

Turkish authorities believe that ByLock is a communication tool among the alleged followers of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, soldiers, businessmen and even housewives, have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Journalist Ahmet Böken, who was asked by judge to make his defence against the charges, requested additional time for making his defence. Böken’s lawyer has also stated that he is not agree with the prosecutor’s evaluation and requested the court to release him by taking the long pre-trial detention period into consideration. Böken has already spent 18 months in prison without trial as many other jailed Turkish journalists. However, the court has ruled for the continuation of pre-trial detention for Böken and postponed the trial to April 3, 2018.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 242 journalists and media workers are in jails as of January 4, 2018, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 215 are arrested pending trial, only 27 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 138 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.

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