An award-winning radio programmer and journalist Serkan Sedat Güray has been jailed in Turkey’s notorious Silivri Prison in Ä°stanbul since March 7, 2017 over fabricated charges of terrorism.
Güray, 42-year-old journalist, has neither been indicted or brought to the court for a trial hearing as of today despite he has been jailed for 10 months in pre-trial detention. As such, he does not know what the formal charges against him and he does not know any evidence, if any, collected by the government.
He was believed to have been arrested on alleged links to the Gülen movement, a civic group that is inspired by the US-based Turkish-Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen who is highly critical of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan and his government on corruption. The government calls the group as “FETÖ”, a pejorative acronym that Turkey’s political Islamist government has been using to defame the movement.
This was not the first time Güray was targeted by the Erdoğan regime in Turkey. Previously he was detained on March 3, 2016 over allegedly insulting President Erdoğan and Hakan Fidan, the head of National Intelligence Organisation (MİT) through his Twitter posts. He was alleged to have made an allegation that Fidan was a spy working for the Iran’s Revoluatinary Guard Corps. After pro-government web portal medyagundem.com, owned by the Erdoğan Family, targeted him, he was detained.
Güray told in a pre-trial hearing that twitter account that raised these allegations did not belong to him. He had been released on parole and were ordered to check in with the police station twice a week.
While he was about to defend himself in upcoming court hearing, Güray was detained by the police once again on February 22, 2017. This time he was not lucky to escape the wrath of Erdoğan’s regime. After being locked in a detention cell for 17 days, an İstanbul court ruled for his pre-trial arrest on March 7, 2017 under abusive anti-terror laws that are being systematically used by Turkish government to silence critical journalists.
During police interrogation on March 5, 2017, he was asked why he had phone talks with critical journalists Mümtaz’er Türköne, Ali Bulaç, Ekrem Dumanlı and Nazlı Ilıcak who are currently in jail or at large. Güray replied he called these journalists to invite them to his radio show on Burç FM, a national radio station that was shut down by the government following controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
Güray was also interrogated why he donated money amounting 50 TL (about 13 USD) to a charity organisation called Kimse Yok Mu that was affiliated with the Gülen movement. Later, this donation was deemed to be financing of terrorism although Kimse Yok Mu had been duly authorised, licensed and government-approved charity group in Turkey at the time.
Although Güray rejected all accusations against him in the arraignment hearing and told the investigating judge all he did was only journalism, he was arrested over making terror propaganda with his radio shows, financing terrorism with his donation to a charity and having a bank account at Bank Asya that is also affiliated with the Gülen movement. Bank Asya was one of the three banks with the highest liquidity in Turkey. Today, Turkish government considers having an account with the bank to be a criminal evidence although the bank was approved and licensed by the government regulators until it was unlawfully seized.
After the court ruled for his arrest, Güray was immediately placed in a solitary confinement where he stayed alone in a cell for two months. A friend of Güray, who spoke to the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) on condition of anonymity, said that Prosecutor Hüseyin Önelge continuously sends messages to him to bear false testimony in order to improve his prison conditions.
Güray graduated from prestigious Bilkent University’s Department of American Culture and Literature. He joined training courses on phonetics and elocution. He started his media career at Burç FM in 1993 as a newsreader.
In the coming years, he worked at popular radio networks such as Radio Blue, Radyo Bilkent, Dünya Radyo, Power FM, Capital Broadcasting Network and Samanyolu News Radio.
In 2007, he was awarded as the best program producer in Europe by the The GTN European Radio Awards Committee. Following year, he received the best radio theatre producer award by the Association of National Radio Broadcasters in Turkey.
He had been working at Burç FM since 2001. Apart from his radio shows, he was lecturing on elocution, creative writing and news reading.
He was one of the staff at Zirve University’s department of Television and Radio until the university was unlawfully shut down by the government last year.
Güray is also an English teacher and contributed regularly to an online news portal, ulusalstrateji.com.
His sons Serhat (8) and Servet (4) can only visit their father for only 50 minutes in every two months. They are told that their father is temporarily working in prison in order to write a news story about prisoners.
His wife Dilek Güray says kids pray every night to reunite with their dad and dream about what they would do together.
Serkan looks forward to send his draft book on Radio Broadcasting to his publisher when he gets free from the jail.
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 December 7, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 230 are arrested pending trial, only 26 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 135 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 Interior Minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665 people have been arrested. Previously, on December 13, 2017, The Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.