Indictment seeks up to 10-year jail sentences for 28 journalists

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Zaman daily journalist Hanım Büşra Erdal

An indictment prepared by an İstanbul public prosecutor seeks 10-year jail sentences for 28 journalists, most of whom worked for media outlets affiliated with the faith-based Gülen movement.

The indictment, prepared by prosecutor Murat Çağlak from the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, accuses 28 journalists, 25 of whom are currently in jail, of membership in a terrorist organization and seeks a jail sentence of from five to 10 years.

Those indicted include Zaman daily journalists such as  Ali Akkuş, Büşra Erdal, Hanım Bünyamin Köseli, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Habib Güler, Halil İbrahim Balta, Mustafa Erkan Acar, Bayram Kaya, Yakup Çetin and Emre Soncan.

Zaman, which was taken over by the government in March 2016, was closed down along with dozens of other media outlets due to their links to the Gülen movement following a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The other journalists indicted are Abdullah Kılıç, Ahmet Memiş, Atilla Taş, Bülent Ceyhan, Cihan Acar, Cuma Ulus, Davut Aydın, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Hüseyin Aydın, Muhammed Sait Kuloğlu, Muhterem Tanık, Murat Aksoy, Mutlu Çölgeçen, Oğuz Usluer, Seyid Kılıç, Ufuk Şanlı, Ünal Tanık and Yetkin Yıldız.

In the meantime, another journalist under indictment is Said Sefa, the editor-in-chief of Haberdar news portal. Sefa, who is currently in exile, is facing a life sentence in addition to 15 years on charges of attempting a military coup and being a leader of an armed terrorist organization. He is also being accused of being the owner of a Twitter account known as “Fuat Avni,” which acted as a government whistleblower. Sefa has frequently denied any links to the Fuat Avni account.

The military coup attempt on July 15 killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Despite Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, whose views inspired the movement, and the movement having denied the accusation, Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government launched a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

More than 135,000 people have been purged from state bodies, in excess of 90,000 detained and over 41,000 have been arrested since the coup attempt. Arrestees include journalists, judges, prosecutors, police and military officers, academics, governors and even a comedian. Critics argue that lists of Gülen sympathizers were drawn up prior to the coup attempt.

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