30 Zaman journalists to wait until Sept.18 for trial

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Zaman columnists Şahin Alpay and Ahmet Turan Alkan were arrested in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15.

An indictment that seeks three consecutive life sentences on coup charges for 30 individuals who include journalists and executives from the now-closed Zaman daily has been accepted by an İstanbul court, with Sept. 18 announced as the first court session, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Thursday.

According to the report, after accepting the indictment the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court also ruled for a continuation of the arrest of 21 of the journalists who have been in jail since late July.

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 ve 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 indictment mentions excerpts from the columns of some Zaman journalists such as Ali Bulaç, Ali Ünal and Mümtaz’er Türköne as their support for the coup.

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

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.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 2 that a total of 113,260 people have been detained, 47,155 people including 10,732 police officers, 7,631 military officers, 2,575 judges and prosecutors and 208 local administrative officials were arrested as part of investigations into the Gülen movement since the putsch.

Contrary to accusations made by President Erdoğan and the Turkish government, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament concluded last month that Gülen and the movement he inspired as a whole were not behind the failed coup in Turkey.

The UK Parliament statement came a week after Germany rejected Erdoğan and the Turkish government’s accusations against the Gülen movement about July 15.

The head of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND), Bruno Kahl, said Turkey could not convince them that US-based Turkish-Islamic scholar Gülen was behind the failed coup in July.
Similarly, Devin Nunes, chairman of United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said he has not seen any evidence showing Gülen’s involvement in the putsch in Turkey.

In addition, a report prepared by the EU Intelligence Analysis Centre (IntCen) revealed that the coup attempt was staged by a range of Erdoğan’s opponents due to fears of an impending purge.

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