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Retrial of 4 Zaman journalists begins at İstanbul court after top court ruling

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An İstanbul court on Tuesday began the retrial of four journalists from the now-closed Zaman daily after the Supreme Court of Appeals in December annulled the local court’s rulings against the four journalists.

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 on July 15, 2016 although it strongly denies any involvement.

Former Zaman daily columnists Şahin Alpay, Mümtaz’er Türköne and Ali Bulaç attended the first hearing of the trial at the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court, while former Zaman editor Mehmet Öztürk was absent.

The journalists had been arrested in the aftermath of the coup attempt as part of a crackdown on journalists critical of the government and journalists who used to work at Gülen-affiliated media organizations. Eleven journalists were tried on charges of violating the constitution, membership in a terrorist organization, disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization and aiding a terrorist organization.

In December the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled to uphold the lower court’s decision for the acquittal of the four defendants as well as sentences given to the three of the defendants in the trial. The top court also ruled that sentences given to Türköne, Bulaç and Alpay as well as an acquittal decision for Öztürk were flawed.

The journalists, who were all in pretrial detention for several years following the coup attempt, demanded that the court comply with the top appeals’ court ruling and rule for their acquittal. Alpay reminded the court of two rulings from Turkey’s Constitutional Court and one ruling from the European Court of Human Rights concerning the violation of his rights during his imprisonment and pretrial detention.

The journalists denied all the charges against them, saying their activities at the Zaman daily were merely journalistic and that they had nothing to do with the coup attempt.

The court adjourned the trial to a later date.

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