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İstanbul court rules to continue detention of 20 journalists on trial for Gülen links

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An İstanbul court on Tuesday ruled to continue the detention of 20 journalists who are being tried for alleged links to the Gülen movement, which is accused by Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) of being behind a failed coup last year.

According to the decision of the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court on Tuesday, all 20 journalists, who were jailed following the failed coup in July 2016, will remain behind bars. The next hearing will be held on Feb. 6, 2018.

On Oct. 24 the court released Atilla Taş, a former singer and a columnist for the now-closed Meydan daily, Murat Aksoy, a former columnist for the shuttered Bugün daily, and Davut Aydın, a former teacher.

There are now 20 jailed journalists in the trial of members of media outlets that were closed by the government over alleged links to the movement.

Journalist suspects in the trial mainly worked with the now-closed Zaman, Meydan and Bugün dailies and are accused of supporting the movement by having accounts with Bank Asya and using the ByLock mobile phone application, both considered by Turkish authorities to be evidence of links to the movement.

Bank Asya, once Turkey’s largest Islamic bank, was seized and later closed down by a government decision following the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

ByLock is a smartphone application that Turkish authorities believe is widely used by Gülen movement followers as a communication tool.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) showed that 281 journalists and media workers were in jail as of Sept. 26, 2017, most in pre-trial detention without a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 256 were arrested pending trial, while only 25 journalists have been convicted and are serving time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 135 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Turkey’s Contemporary Journalists’ Association (ÇGD) recently announced that more than 900 press cards were cancelled.

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