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Real actors behind July 15 coup attempt are still walking free, newly released journalist says

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Müyesser Yıldız, a journalist who was on Monday released pending trial after 155 days of incarceration on charges of political and military espionage, has said she was jailed because the Turkish government wanted to prevent her from investigating a failed coup in 2016 while allowing the real actors behind it to walk free.

Yıldız was serving as the Ankara managing editor of OdaTV, an online news outlet known for its critical views on Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

In an interview published in the Cumhuriyet daily on Wednesday, Yıldız argued that her imprisonment was ordered by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP government to stop her from investigating what really went down on the night of the abortive putsch on July 15, 2016, which killed 251 people.  

“My coming into the public spotlight recently is due to my reporting on July 15. But I’m a journalist, and I don’t have to accept July 15 as they [the AKP] present it. I ask about it, I investigate it. July 15 must be investigated. Those really responsible for it are still walking free. My biggest crime was to ask questions about that night.”

When asked about the case that caused her to spend five months in Sincan Prison in Ankara, the journalist said the case against her was not real and the indictment was prepared arbitrarily to satisfy those in power and punish her.

“There’s no solid evidence in the file, just some phone calls from a journalist. It’s not a bill of indictment; it’s a bill of vengeance. I’m well aware that their [government officials’] hostility towards me is due to [my investigating] July 15.”

The fifty-seven-year-old journalist also told Cumhuriyet that she would continue to follow coup trials and spend the rest of her life fighting to restore the rule of law in Turkey.

Immediately after July 15, Erdoğan and his ruling AKP accused the Gülen movement, inspired by the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, of orchestrating the coup attempt. Ankara also labels the faith-based movement as a terrorist organization and has carried out a crackdown on the group since July 2016.

More than 130,000 civil servants were removed from their jobs and 80,000 people were detained or arrested, while 511,000 people were prosecuted over links to the group as part of the crackdown, although both Gülen and his followers strongly deny the coup allegations and involvement in any terrorist activity.

Yıldız, the only defendant who was released on Monday, faces more than six years in prison for her reporting along with TELE1 reporter İsmail Zeki Dükel and a military officer who was alleged to have leaked confidential information to her. The next hearing in the trial is scheduled for January 6, 2021.

Public prosecutor İrfan Sert appealed the decision to release Yıldız, demanding that another arrest warrant be issued for the journalist.

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