Turkish singer Atilla Taş detained to serve sentence for alleged links to Gülen movement

Atilla Taş, a former singer and a columnist for the now-closed Meydan daily, was detained by police on Friday morning for the execution of his prison sentence following the decision of a regional appeals court to uphold the three year, one month, 15 day sentence over his alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported that Taş was arrested later on Friday and sent to Metris Prison in İstanbul.

Speaking to online news outlet Bianet, Prof. Dr. Yaman Akdeniz, one of Taş’s lawyers, stated that Taş was detained at his house by police officers on Friday and taken to the İstanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan. Akdeniz said Taş was detained for the execution of his prison sentence, which was upheld by the court of appeals.

The İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court had sentenced Taş to three years, one month and 15 days in prison, convicting him of “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terrorist organization as a non-member of the organization.” The sentence was upheld by the court of appeals on October 24. Akdeniz stated that it is not yet certain whether Taş will be sent to prison.

Taş was first detained in August 2016, after he posted a tweet critical of then-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. He was quickly released.

He was also arrested on September 3, 2016. As part of a lawsuit filed against 29 people, 26 of whom were behind bars, a ruling of release was given for 21 defendants including Taş on March 31, 2017. However, none of the defendants were released after new arrest warrants were issued for them on the same day. After one year, one month and 21 days in pretrial detention, Taş was released on October 24, 2017.

On August 30, 2016, the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a detention warrant for 35 people, including several academics and journalists, as part of an investigation into alleged members of the Gülen movement in the wake of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Twenty-seven of the 35 detainees were later arrested.

The lawsuit was concluded on October 24, 2017, and as per the ruling of the court, 23 defendants were given prison sentences of between six years, three months and seven years, six months on charges of “membership in an armed terrorist organization.” Taş was sentenced to three years, one month and 15 days in prison for “aiding an armed terrorist organization.”

Ahmet Memiş, Ali Akkuş, Muhammet Sait Kuloğlu, Mutlu Çölgeçen, Seyid Kılıç, Ünal Tanık, Erkan Acar, Oğuz Usluer, Davut Aydın, Ufuk Şanlı, Yetkin Yıldız and Cuma Ulus were all sentenced to seven years, six months in prison, while Cihan Acar, Bünyamin Köseli, İbrahim Balta, Bayram Kaya, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Habip Güler, Hanım Büşra Erdal, Yakup Çetin, Hüseyin Aydın, Abdullah Kılıç and Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu received sentences of six years, three months.

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). 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 239 journalists and media workers were in jail as of October 31, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 170 were under arrest pending trial while only 69 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 148 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 a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

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