Now-closed Zaman columnist Ünal kept in jail by Turkish court

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Journalist Ali Ünal

A high criminal court in the western Turkish province of Uşak on Wednesday refused to release Ali Ünal, a theologian and former columnist for the now-closed Zaman daily, who has been behind bars for more than two years.

According to report by the Samanyolu news website, the hearing at the Uşak 2nd High Criminal Court was conducted by a new chief judge and prosecutor, who repeated a demand of aggravated life imprisonment for Ünal for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order,” “establishing and managing an armed terrorist organization” and “membership in a terrorist organization” due to his links to the Gülen movement.

The Gülen movement is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, although the movement strongly denies any involvement.

During the hearing Ünal asked for additional time to prepare his defense, citing high blood pressure and diabetes.

The judge set the next hearing for Nov. 14, underlining that he would make his ruling even if the defense is not ready for next hearing.

Ünal was arrested in August 2016, and the first hearing of Ünal’s trial was held on Jan. 4, 2018 during which Ünal delivered his defense and responded to accusations in the indictment relating to 17 of his columns in the Zaman daily.

The Zaman daily, which was affiliated with the Gülen movement, was first unlawfully seized by the Turkish government on March 4, 2016 and then closed down by government decree in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt in July 2016.

Dozens of Zaman journalists have been jailed on coup charges since the coup attempt.

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