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Members of coup commission to request testimony of jailed columnists

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Some members of a parliamentary commission established to investigate a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15 have suggested hearing the testimony of imprisoned columnists from the Zaman daily, which was brutally seized in March and subsequently shut down following July 15.

The offer came from ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Manisa deputy Selçuk Özdağ during the commission’s session on Thursday. Özdağ suggested that former Zaman columnists Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç, Ahmet Turan Alkan and Mümtazer Türköne should testify to the commission. These imprisoned columnists are accused of being part of the coup plot by writing for Zaman, a newspaper that was considered the flagship media outlet of the Gülen movement. The government, since day one, has accused the Gülen movement of orchestrating the coup attempt and has been conducting a massive purge targeting journalists, academics, businesspeople and even schoolteachers.

Another imprisoned journalist, Nazlı Ilıcak, from the former Bugün daily, was also suggested as a witness for the commission. Other deputies listed imprisoned columnist Ahmet Altan as well as journalists Ahmet Şık and İsmail Saymaz as possible names.

On Monday the Hürriyet daily published an interview by İsmail Saymaz with David Keynes, the owner of the ByLock mobile phone app, in New York. Use of ByLock is being employed as a pretext to arrest thousands of people alleged to be Gülen movement sympathizers on coup charges in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt. Some commission members also raised David Keynes as a person whose testimony must be heard regarding the coup allegations.

The Hürriyet interview with Keynes has revealed that, contrary to the government’s insistent claim that the coup was plotted through encrypted messages on ByLock, the application has been inactive since the end of 2015, long before the coup attempt of July 15.

Meanwhile the commission decided on Thursday not to hear President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s brother-in-law, Ziya İlgen, who came to public attention when Erdoğan told the media that he learned about the coup attempt from his brother-in-law.

Although the government based its accusations of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen as the alleged mastermind of the coup attempt on the initial testimony of Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, the opposition’s offer to hear to him as well as the undersecretary of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) as witnesses was rejected by the AKP deputies on the commission.

Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a great 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.

A report published by the German Focus magazine in August claimed that Turkish government members decided to put the blame for the coup attempt on Gülen half an hour after the uprising and agreed to begin a purge of Gülen followers the next day.

More than 110,000 people have been purged from state bodies, 82,000 detained and 35,000 arrested since the coup attempt. Arrestees include journalists, judges, prosecutors, police officers, military personnel, doctors, court personnel and even a comedian.

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