Jailed journalist Ünal says Quranic verse considered terror evidence against him

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Mustafa Ünal (50), a jailed veteran journalist and former Ankara bureau chief for the now-closed Zaman daily, has said his arrest lacks any legal ground and that his sharing of a Quranic verse on Twitter is being considered evidence of terrorism against him by the Turkish judicial authorities.

Ünal, who was arrested after a military coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016, was handed down a jail sentence of 10 years, six months by an İstanbul high criminal court in July on charges of membership in a terror organization.

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 the coup attempt. The movement, labeled as a terror organization by the Turkish government, strongly denies involvement in the failed putsch and any terror activity.

The İstanbul court recently announced its reasoned decision in the Ünal ruling. In response to this, Ünal wrote a letter from Silivri Prison, where he has been jailed, to explain how the court ruling lacks any legal ground and what is cited as evidence against him.

Ünal’s letter was published by the tr724 online news website on Tuesday.

In his letter Ünal said he was given the jail sentence for simply sharing a  Quranic verse on his Twitter account, the 90th verse of the Surah an-Nahl, saying, “God enjoins justice (and right judgment in all matters).”

Ünal posted this tweet in the early hours of July 15, 2016, which was a Friday, with a “Have a good Friday” message as Friday is a holy day for Muslims and they exchange good wishes on this day. He said during court hearings that he has been posting this verse as a Friday message for years and that it had nothing to do with the coup attempt that happened to take place on that day.

He said this verse has been cited as evidence of his membership in a terrorist organization.

“Would the courtrooms see this, too? Would the Turkish judiciary fall into this situation? I am saddened more by a verse being considered criminal evidence than the prison sentence handed down to me,” Ünal wrote in his letter.

The journalist said he does not respect the court’s decision and is making his complaints to God and history, adding that he has no hope of his cry for justice to be heard by Ankara.

“I am a journalist who was given 10-year jail sentence for sharing a verse as a message. I will go down in history like this. Thank God. May my readers remember me so,” he added.

Zaman, which was Turkey’s best-selling newspaper, was taken over by the government in March 2016 and then closed down in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt. Zaman angered the government with its critical stance and extensive coverage of a corruption scandal that erupted in late 2013.

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