Court adjourns trial of journalists facing terror charges

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Zaman daily headquarters

An İstanbul court on Friday adjourned the trial of 28 journalists charged with membership in a terrorist organization to March 7-8 as the journalists were unable complete their defense statements.

The trial of the journalists is being heard at the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court. There are 19 jailed defendants in the trial.

The journalists named in the indictment include 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.

The journalists, some of whom used to work for media outlets affiliated with the Gülen movement, are alleged to be followers of the movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The movement strongly denies any involvement.

The number of defendants in the trial fell to 28 from 29 as the court decided to separate the file of jailed Zaman journalist Emre Soncan from this trial since another case was filed against him.

During Friday’s hearing, the now-closed Zaman Aksiyon weekly magazine’s Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu said he began to work for the Zaman Media Group at the age of 21 because he was not able to find a job elsewhere. Kalyoncu said he worked for the Aksiyon weekly as a correspondent and had no say in the magazine’s editorial policy.

Kalyoncu said pro-government figures such as Fehmi Koru, Ayşe Böhürler, Ahmet Taşgetiren and former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu were also writing for Aksiyon at the time.

“I am being accused of being a member of a terror organization because I worked for Aksiyon. Then I wonder why this magazine was allowed to be published for years,” asked Kalyoncu.

Journalist Cihan Acar, who had previously been released on his own recognizance, said he wants to keep his defense as short and concise as his journalism life.

“There are 10 Twitter messages that I posted after the appointment of trustees to my newspaper [Bugün daily]. If we take these two hours from my life, would I be here?” Acar asked.

Jailed journalist Çulhaoğlu said he is innocent and has no links to the Gülen movement.

“Journalists may commit a crime, but if you try them on coup charges, then you will have acquitted them of their real crimes,” he said.

Another jailed journalist from the Zaman daily, Habip Güler, said he has nothing to do with any terror organizations and what he did was only to perform his profession as a journalist.

Zaman journalist Halil İbrahim Balta, who was released by the court earlier this month due to health problems, said he worked as business desk correspondent and did not write any stories about political issues.

“I am being tried for being a terror organization member for posting a tweet as if I had detonated a bomb,” he said.

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