Turkish court demands red notice for opposition newspaper owner

A Turkish court on Thursday urged Interpol to issue a red notice for the owner of Sözcü, one of the few Turkish newspapers still willing to openly criticise the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Evrensel newspaper reported.

The court accepted prosecutors’ closing statement, requesting a red notice for Burak Akbay and sentences from five years to ten years for staffers of Sözcü, an independent left-leaning daily,  including veteran journalists Necati Doğru and Emin Çölaşan, over links to Gülen movement. 

The Turkish government accuses the movement of establishing a parallel state in Turkey via its devotees in public sector jobs before orchestrating a failed coup in 2016. More than 130,000 public servants were sacked via government decrees following the coup attempt. 

Sözcü is known for criticisms of the Gülenists that stretch back to a time when the group was known to be close to Erdoğan’s government.

The court separated the case file of Burak Abay, who is outside Turkey, and called on Interpol to issue a red notice for his arrest. The next hearing of the case is scheduled for June 14.

Defence lawyers objected to the decisions, saying they had never reviewed the legal opinion, Sözcü said

“You have not read the indictment yet,” defence lawyer Celal Ülgen told the judges. “The legal opinion was published today in Sabah newspaper though it was not submitted to us.”

According to Ülgen, the closing statement is mainly a punishment to those who oppose Erdoğan.

In December, the U.S. magazine Foreign Policy named Turkey among several countries abusing Interpol's red notice system to track down, frighten and potentially detain dissidents.