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Court hands down verdicts to former Zaman daily journalists

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The İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court after a two-day-long final session handed down jail sentences of varying lengths to journalists from the now-closed Zaman daily on charges of “membership in a terrorist group,” the T24 news website reported on Friday.

According to the ruling, Mümtaz’er Türköne and Mustafa Ünal received sentences of 10 years, six months; İbrahim Karayeğen was given nine years; and Ahmet Turan Alkan, Şahin Alpay and Ali Bulaç were handed down sentences of eight years, nine months each.

The court also decided to release Alkan and Karayeğen pending appeal. The incarceration of Türköne and Ünal will continue.

Lalezar Sarı İbrahimoğlu, Orhan Kemal Cengiz, İhsan Dağı, Nuriye Akman and Mehmet Özdemir were acquitted of all charges.

All of the defendants were acquitted of the charge of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.”

İbrahimoğlu, Akman, Özdemir, Alpay and Bulaç had previously been released on their own recognizance. Cengiz was briefly held in police custody, and Dağı was never detained.

The Zaman daily, which was Turkey’s best-selling newspaper, was closed down along with dozens of other media outlets due to their links to the Gülen movement, which is accused by Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government of masterminding a coup attempt in July 2016.

“To me and my friends, the labels of terrorist and putschist will not stick,” Karayeğen told the court in his final remarks. Karayeğen had recently described the ill-treatment and torture he had been subject to during his detention.

Türköne in his final remarks said he had given lectures on the constitutional order as an academic for 38 years, but now, after being accused of attempting to overthrow that order, he would put an end to his political career and start to write novels.

Ünal also said the evidence, consisting of headlines of columns, compiled by the prosecutor was extremely weak and thus he had demanded his acquittal.

Alkan highlighted the rulings of the Constitutional Court and European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on Alpay’s detention as a violation of his liberty, security and freedom of expression. He also thanked the writers and journalists who had supported him.

“My only relation to the Gülen movement was being a columnist [for Zaman]. I didn’t see their dark side. I regret that I didn’t see that. I consider 22 months of jail time as atonement for 67 years of my life,” Bulaç told the court in his final remarks.

“The public witnessed my 35 years in journalism. I am unable to be a member of any terrorist organization,” Alpay said.

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