Visually impaired journalist Cüneyt Arat sent to prison over alleged Gülen links

Visually impaired Turkish journalist Cüneyt Arat.

Visually impaired Turkish journalist Cüneyt Arat was sent to prison on Monday due to his alleged links to the Gülen movement. According to several tweets posted by one of friends of the disabled journalist, Arat has turned himself in to the police immediately after he has learned that a prison sentence that was handed down on Feb. 22, 2017 has been approved by an upper court on Sunday.

Cüneyt Arat was sentenced on Feb. 22, 2017 to 6 years 3 months in prison due to his alleged links to the Gülen movement. He was also given one year, 10 months and 15 days jail time for promoting a “terrorist” organization.

“I was given 6 years, 3 months over movement membership. I was also given 1 year, 10months and 15 days for [Gülen] propaganda. I am acquitted of coup involvement accusations.” Arat said in tweets he posted in February.

In a related case, Arat was also arrested on July 21, 2016, for social media posts that allegedly praise the Gülen movement. The disabled journalist has been under house arrest wearing an electronic ankle bracelet since then.

Turkey is the leading jailer of journalists in the world. The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 263 journalists are now in jails as of June 24, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 239 are arrested pending trial, only 24 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 105 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the 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 over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah 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 participants of the Gülen movement in jails.

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ has announced on July 7, 2017 that at least 50,504 people have been arrested and 168,801 have been the subject of legal proceedings (investigations, detentions etc.) in Turkey in the framework of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement since the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Also, arrest warrants have been issued for 8,069 people, according to Bozdağ. (SCF with turkeypurge.com) July 10, 2017

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