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Turkey: Zaman journalists and columnists receive heavy prison sentences

10 July 2018

Six journalists and columnists have been heavily sentenced to prison by a court in Istanbul for alleged membership to an armed illegal terrorist organisation.

The suspects were all working for the late Zaman daily newspaper banned by Turkish authorities following the failed coup attempt on 15 July 2016.

Philippe Leruth, IFJ president said: "Once again, the Turkish judiciary has failed to protect media workers and punish them under fabricated charges. The absence of justice for journalists in Turkey greatly damages democracy. We demand Turkish authorities to release all our colleagues behind bar immediately."

Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, EFJ president, said: “Our colleagues from Zaman newspaper did not take part to the coup attempt and have condemned it afterwards. Prosecuting workers solely on the basis of their work employment is not ruling based on facts but a politically motivated decision. The Turkish authorities must drop all the charges and release the journalists and columnists.”

A total of eleven suspects – four of them in pre-trial detention – appeared before an Istanbul court in the final hearing of the case involving Zaman, which was shut down in 2016 over alleged links to US-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen. The court found six journalists guilty of “being a member of an armed organisation” based on their articles and opinions expressed in the newspaper.

Ali Bulaç, Şahin Alpay, and Ahmet Turan Alkan were sentenced to 8 years and 9 months in prison; Mümtaz’er Türköne and Mustafa Ünal were sentenced to 10 years and 6 months in prison and İbrahim Karayeğen was sentenced to 9 years in prison.

Out of the four journalists detained during the trial, the court ordered Türköne and Ünal to remain in detention as appeals continue, but released Alkan and Karayeğen under judicial control taking into the account the days in pre-trial detention, which means that they are under a travel ban and must report to police.

Journalists İhsan Dağı, Lale Sarıibrahimoğlu, Mehmet Özdemir, Nuriye Ural and Orhan Kemal Cengiz were acquitted of all charges.

Tags: , international, turkey, Zaman, prison, journalists detained, Gülen, Ali Bulaç, Şahin Alpay, Ahmet Turan Alkan, Mümtaz’er Türköne, Mustafa Ünal