Jailed Zaman journalist Soncan gets 7.5-year jail sentence on terror charges

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Journalist Emre Soncan

Journalist Emre Soncan, who is among dozens of journalists jailed in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016, has been handed down a prison sentence of seven-and-a-half years on terror charges.

The last hearing of Soncan’s trial was held on Tuesday at the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court which Soncan attended via IT Voice and Image System (SEGBİS) from Silivri Prison, where he has been jailed for almost two years.

In his defense, Soncan denied the terror charges and asked for his acquittal.

The court first gave a nine-year sentence to Soncan on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, then reduced it to seven-and-a-half years.

Soncan, 36, used to work for Turkey’s best-selling Zaman daily, which was closed down by the Turkish government in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt due to its links to the Gülen movement, accused by the government of masterminding the failed coup. The movement strongly denies any involvement.

Soncan mainly covered defense issues and the president’s office.

The journalist was detained 10 days after the coup attempt and was arrested along with 21 other journalists in the same investigation on July 29, 2016. With additional arrests the number rose to 27, and a case was launched against them and two journalists at large. The trial at the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court was concluded on March 8.

The court handed down prison sentences ranging from 25 months to seven years, six months to the 25 journalists on terror charges. The journalists, some of whom used to work for media outlets affiliated with the Gülen movement, are alleged to be followers of the movement.

Toward the end of the trial in which Soncan was charged with membership in a terrorist organization and was awaiting a verdict following his 20-month stay in prison, the judge decided to separate his dossier from the others, saying that there was a new case against him and that he would be tried in new proceedings.

In the new indictment dated Feb. 5, 2018 and accepted by the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court, Soncan is accused of establishing and running a terrorist organization. The reason for the new trial, according to the tr724 news portal, was because of Soncan’s remarks about the Gülen movement in the first hearing of his initial trial.

He said he does not see the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization in the March 29, 2017 hearing when asked about one of his Twitter messages.

In one of the tweets he posted following the coup attempt, the journalist wrote: “I don’t know whether I will be detained for posting this tweet, but I don’t find the claim suggesting that the Gülen movement was behind this cowardly junta to be sensible.”

The military coup attempt on July 15 killed 249 people and wounded more than a thousand others.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the Gülen 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.

Amid an ongoing witch-hunt targeting the Gülen movement, more than 50,00 people have been jailed while 150,000 others have been removed from state posts due to alleged links to the movement.

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