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Journalist sentenced to prison on charges of Gülen movement links

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A court in İstanbul has sentenced Yeni Asya daily editor Naciye Nur Ener to 7.5 years in prison and ruled for the continuation of her house arrest.

The last hearing of Ener’s trial was held on Thursday at the İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court and was attended by Ener and her lawyer, Mustafa Özbek.

Ener was detained by police who raided her house on the night of March 5 and was subsequently arrested by the İstanbul 4th Penal Court of Peace and sent to Bakırköy Women’s Prison in İstanbul.

The journalist was arrested based on a letter from an informant who accused her of being a follower of the faith-based Gülen movement and using the ByLock mobile phone messaging application.

Turkish authorities believe ByLock is a communication tool among alleged followers of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, military officers, businessmen and even housewives, have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since a coup attempt in July 2016.

Although the informant, an old friend of Ener’s, called the journalist and told her that they reported her to the police because of anger at somebody else and regretted what they did, this was not taken into consideration by the court.

Ener, who was later released under house arrest, denied any links to the Gülen movement and using ByLock during the hearing on Thursday and requested her acquittal. However, the court decided to sentence her to 7.5 years in prison and ruled for the continuation of her house arrest during the appeals process.

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Wednesday. If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 253 journalists and media workers were in jail as of May 11, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 192 were under arrest pending trial while only 61 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 142 journalists who are living 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 some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after the coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

(Stockholm Center for Freedom [SCF])

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