Visually impaired Turkish journalist given 11-month-long suspended sentence for praising Gülen

Visually impaired Turkish journalist Cüneyt Arat.

An Adana court on Thursday handed down a suspended prison sentence of 11 months to visually impaired journalist Cüneyt Arat for praising Turkish-Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and the Gülen movement he inspired.

Announcing the news from his Twitter account, Arat wrote that “Judge Ender Genç gave me a prison sentence of 11 months. If I don’t praise them [Gülen and the Gülen movement] for one year, he said my sentence will be cleared. I am not going to jail, I am free.”

Arat was arrested on July 21, 2016 for social media posts that allegedly praise the Gülen movement. As a disabled journalist and human rights defender of disabled people in Turkey, Cüneyt Arat was placed under house arrest wearing an electronic ankle bracelet until February 2017.

The military coup attempt on July 15 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 them in custody.

Fashion designer and TV show presenter Barbaros Şansal.

Also on Thursday, renowned fashion designer and TV show presenter Barbaros Şansal has been handed down a suspended prison sentence of six months 20 days due to a Twitter message he posted on New Year’s Day.

The fashion designer was arrested in early January upon his return from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) after he was deported by Lefkoşa authorities over reactions to a video he filmed. He was released pending trial by a court in March.

In the video, which sparked outrage in Turkey, Şansal uses slang while criticizing several scandals that took place throughout 2016 in an effort to emphasize that there was no reason to celebrate the new year.

In the video he shared, Şansal says he will drink a lot in Lefkoşa and later move to Nicosia to drink more, after enumerating harsh criticisms about corruption, rape, bribery and bigotry in Turkey. He finishes his video with the words: “Drown in your shit, Turkey.”

Historian Süleyman Yeşilyurt

Meanwhile, historian Süleyman Yeşilyurt, who was arrested on May 12 on charges of insulting Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, was released by an İstanbul court at the first hearing of his trial on Thursday.

In early May, an arrest warrant was issued for Yeşilyurt on charges of “insulting the memory of Atatürk” and “inciting the people to hatred and hostility.” He surrendered himself to the Bakırköy Courthouse in İstanbul where he was subsequently jailed.

İstanbul public prosecutor Ertuğrul Sarıyar on May 11 had an arrest warrant issued for Yeşilyurt due to a comment made on a TV program that had triggered outrage from politicians, writers, historians and social media users.

Yeşilyurt, a guest on the “Derin Tarih” (Deep History) show on private broadcaster TVnet, claimed on May 6 that one of Atatürk’s foster children, Afet İnan, was actually his illegitimate wife.

Turkey is the leading jailer of journalists in the world. The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 264 journalists are now in jails as of May 27, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 241 are arrested pending trial, only 23 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 coup attempt. (SCF with June 1, 2017

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