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Court denies judge recusal request from journalists standing trial for Gülen movement links

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An İstanbul court on Monday rejected a request for the recusal of a judge made by journalists who are standing trial over alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, which is accused by Turkish authorities of orchestrating a failed coup in Turkey last summer.

Ali Deniz Ceylan, the lawyer for journalists Atilla Taş and Murat Aksoy, requested from the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court that judge İbrahim Lorasdağı recuse himself from the panel of judges.

Ceylan said Lorasdağı was the İstanbul 1st Penal Judge of Peace who ruled for the arrest of his clients last September.

The İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court denied Ceylan’s request and proceeded with the suspects’ defense.

Along with Taş and Aksoy, 12 journalists were arrested on Sept. 12, 2016 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

During the hearing on Monday, 26 suspects began their defense before the court.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies Şafak Pavey, Selina Doğan, Mahmut Tanal and Sezgin Tanrıkulu, Reporters Without Borders Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu and media representatives from overseas were in attendance during the hearing.

Under indictment are the following journalists, most of whom were employees of the Zaman media group, which was considered the flagship media organization of the Gülen movement:

Abdullah Kılıç, Ahmet Memiş, Ali Akkuş, Atilla Taş, Bayram Kaya, Bülent Ceyhan, Bünyamin Köseli, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Cihan Acar, Cuma Ulus, Davut Aydın, Emre Soncan, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Habib Güler, Halil İbrahim Balta, Hanım Büşra Erdal, Hüseyin Aydın, Muhammed Sait Kuloğlu, Muhterem Tanık, Murat Aksoy, Mustafa Erkan Acar, Mutlu Çölgeçen, Oğuz Usluer, Said Sefa, Seyid Kılıç, Ufuk Şanlı, Ünal Tanık, Yakup Çetin and Yetkin Yıldız.

According to a tally by Turkeypurge.com, 149 media outlets have been shut down by government decrees and 162 journalists arrested since July 15, 2016.

Although the Gülen movement strongly denies having any role in the putsch, the government accuses it of having masterminded the foiled coup. Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, 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.

Over 135,000 people, including thousands within the military, have been purged due to their real or alleged connection to the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, according to a statement by the labor minister on Jan. 10.

As of March 23, 94,982 people were being held without charge, with an additional 47,128 in pre-trial detention due to their alleged links to the movement. A total of 7,317 academics were purged as well as 4,272 judges and prosecutors, who were dismissed due to alleged involvement in the July 15 coup attempt.

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