Turkish columnist faces life sentences for columns he didn’t write

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Orhan Kemal Cengiz

Turkish lawyer, journalist and human rights activist Orhan Kemal Cengiz is facing three consecutive life sentences on coup charges along with 29 other Zaman daily journalists and executives, although he was not a columnist for Zaman, news website Aktifhaber reported on Wednesday.

According to the report, despite the fact that the headlines of articles of columnists Ahmet Turan Alkan, Ali Bulaç, Nuriye Akman, İhsan Dağı, Şahin Alpay, Mümtazer Türköne and Lale Kemal were mentioned in the 64-page indictment, no article by Cengiz was cited.
The columnists are accused of engaging in “perception engineering” by means of their articles.

The Zaman daily, which was affiliated with the faith-based Gülen movement, was first seized by the Turkish government in March 2016 and then closed down by government decree in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The government holds the Gülen movement responsible for the coup, a charge strongly rejected by the movement.

There are a total of 30 suspects in the indictment, 21 of whom are currently in jail. Mümtazer Türköne, Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç, Ahmet Metin Sekizkardeş, Ahmet Turan Alkan, Alaattin Güner, Cuma Kaya, Faruk Akkan, Hakan Taşdelen, Hüseyin Belli, Hüseyin Turan, İbrahim Karayeğen, İsmail Küçük, Mehmet Özdemir, Murat Avcıoğlu, Mustafa Ünal, Onur Kutlu, Sedat Yetişkin, Şeref Yılmaz, Yüksel Durgut, Zafer Özsoy Tutuklu, Ahmet İrem, Ali Hüseyinçelebi, Süleyman Sargın, Osman Nuri Arslan, Osman Nuri Öztürk, Lalezer Sarıibrahimoğlu, Nuriye Ural and Orhan Kemal Cengiz are mentioned as suspects in the indictment.

Professor İhsan Duran Dağı, who used to work as a columnist for Zaman, is named as a fugitive in the indictment.

İstanbul Public Prosecutor İsmet Bozkurt, who drafted the indictment, is seeking three consecutive life sentences for the Zaman staff on charges of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, the Turkish Parliament and the Turkish government and a jail sentence from seven-and-a-half years up to 15 years on charges of membership in an armed terror organization.

The court is expected to review the indictment within 15 days and either approve or reject it.
If the indictment is approved by the court, the Zaman journalists and executives are expected to soon appear in court.

The indictment mentions excerpts from the columns of some Zaman journalists such as Ali Bulaç, Ali Ünal and Mümtazer Türköne as their support for the coup.

The military coup attempt on July 15 killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement despite the lack of any evidence to that effect.

Although the Gülen movement strongly denies having any role in the putsch, the government accuses it of having masterminded it. 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.

According to a statement from Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on April 2, a total of 113,260 people have been detained as part of investigations into the Gülen movement since the July 15 coup attempt, while 47,155 were put into pre-trial detention.

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