13 Turkish journalists go on trial over alleged coup support

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The trial of 13 journalists accused of taking part in or supporting a coup attempt in Turkey last year is to start on Wednesday at the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court.

The journalists, who were accused of membership in the faith-based Gülen movement in another investigation into Gülen-affiliated media, were acquitted after the first hearing yet were detained again before their release due to another investigation into coup charges. The prosecutor and the judges who released the journalists were dismissed.

Of the 13 journalists, Ali Akkuş was released after being detained and the other 12 journalists were arrested after a two-week period of detention.

An indictment drafted by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office that sought two consecutive life sentences for the 13 journalists on coup charges was accepted by the 25th High Criminal Court in İstanbul.

The indictment revealed that the suspects are accused of membership in a terrorist organization due to their stories, critical tweets and retweets and of attempting to abolish constitutional order and attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey.

The journalists named in the indictment are National Party (UP) leader and Türk Solu weekly columnist Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Yakup Çetin, Bünyamin Köseli, Cihan Acar, Abdullah Kılıç, Oğuz Usluer, Hüseyin Aydın, Murat Aksoy, Mustafa Erkan, Seyit Kılıç, Yetkin Yıldız, Ali Akkuş and pop singer and journalist Atilla Taş.

Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The situation of media in Turkey has become critical under the state of emergency proclaimed after the coup attempt.

According to the Turkey Purge website, based on information compiled from PEN International, the Platform for Independent Journalism (P24), the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), the Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) and the Progressive Journalists Association (ÇGD), 274 journalists were jailed in Turkey following a failed coup last year. While 163 of them are still in pretrial detention, the others were released pending trial or were cleared of charges.

Turkey’s Contemporary Journalists’ Association (ÇGD) recently announced that more than 900 press cards were cancelled.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

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.

Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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