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Court again decides to keep journalist Gündem in jail

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A Turkish court ruled on Wednesday for a continuation of the pretrial detention of veteran Turkish journalist Mehmet Gündem, who was arrested on Nov. 1, 2017 on terrorism charges stemming from his alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Gündem appeared before the İstanbul 35th High Criminal Court for a hearing in his ongoing trial on Wednesday. The court adjourned proceedings until July 9, 2019 at the end of the hearing.

During Wednesday’s hearing Gündem defended himself before the judges against charges of his alleged membership in the Gülen movement and his alleged use of the ByLock mobile phone messaging app.

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

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, soldiers, businessmen and even housewives, have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the coup attempt.

Gündem, who used to work as a columnist for the Milliyet daily, was detained on Nov. 1, 2017, along with 44 colleagues as part of an operation against the Journalists’ and Writers’ Foundation (JWF), which was closed down in the aftermath of the coup attempt over alleged affiliation with the Gülen movement.

During the hearing, Gündem’s lawyer said keeping his client in jail just because he used ByLock for 12 seconds is unacceptable. The lawyer said Gündem should at least be moved from jail to house arrest.

The prosecutor in the trial reiterated his demand for the handing down of a prison sentence to Gündem on charges of membership in a terrorist organization since the Turkish government designates the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization.

The court issued an interim ruling for the continuation of the imprisonment of the journalist.

The JWF, which was a Turkish civil society organization registered with the United Nations and headquartered in İstanbul, subsequently moved its main office to New York City.

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