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Daughter of journalist Türköne: My father will spend yet a third birthday in prison

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Sıla Türköne, the daughter of jailed Turkish journalist Mümtazer Türköne, has said her father will celebrate yet a third birthday in Silivri Prison, sharing a photo with her father taken during a prison visit.

The İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court on July 6 sentenced Zaman journalists Türköne and Mustafa Ünal 10 years, six months in prison, while 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. Türköne and Ünal are still incarcerated.

“In four days my father will celebrate yet a third birthday in prison,” Türköne’s daughter tweeted on Thursday, attaching a photo taken with her father that said, “This is the photo that the [Silivri] prison administration allowed us to take after two years [of his being held there]. May God Bless You!”

Türköne in his final remarks in court on July 6 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.

International organizations including the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI) on July 7 reacted strongly to the ruling of a Turkish court, calling for their immediate release.

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.

In its statement RSF summarized the court cases against Zaman journalists:

“The charges against the columnists stem essentially from their work for Zaman, the country’s highest-circulation daily before it was placed under state control, and then shuttered by decree in 2016. Its editorial policy had favoured the Gülen movement, a former government ally that was then accused of having orchestrated the coup attempt of July 2016. That was enough to accuse anyone who worked for Zaman of ‘membership in a terrorist organization’ or of ‘attempting to overthrow the government and constitutional order.’ These charges were filed without slightest evidence of individual participation in violent acts or attempts to justify them. In the logic of the charges, if the columnists covered scandals in which the government was implicated, or criticized its drift toward authoritarianism, the goal was to create a ‘perception’ favouring a coup.”

Turkey is ranked 157th of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index. Some 150 media organizations have been closed, mass trials were held and the country holds the world record for imprisoned journalists.

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