Jul 06 2018

Verdicts announced in Turkey’s Zaman newspaper case

The verdicts have been announced in another of the high profile trials of press workers in Turkey, the world's leading jailer of journalists.

None of the defendants in the case of Turkey’s Zaman newspaper were convicted of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, a charge which would have seen them awarded life sentences, according to Article 19 Europe.

Five defendants were completely acquitted, while the other journalists were given terror charges.

Zaman newspaper was a media outlet linked to the Fethullah Gülen movement, a group that stands accused of undertaking a failed July 2016 coup attempt. In this trial, many of its journalists were accused of foreknowledge or preparing the ground for the coup attempt. Gülen denies charges.

"It was one of the cases we are seeing in Turkey where there is no evidence," said Ergin Cinmen, one of the trial's defence lawyers, in statements to Ahval.

"The case file contains nothing other than their writings," he added. "After every coup (and coup attempt) in Turkeythe government behaves in the same way towards the opposition. We have seen it in every prior period, and we are seeing it now, too. But there were never trials opened against people based solely on their opinions."

Journalists Şahin Alpay and Ali Bulaç were each given 8 years and 9 months’ prison for “membership of a terrorist organisation” but will remain free until the appeals process is complete, journalism platform P24 said.

Ahmet Turan Alkan was also given 8 years and 9 months each, while İbrahim Karayeğen was given 9 years and Mümtazer Türköne and Mustafa Ünal were given 10 years and 6 months on the same charges. 

"In this trial, the prosecution's wishful thinking has turned into an indictment," said Alkan's lawyer, Faruk Zorba, during the trial.

"The only correct information in the indictment is that the client wrote for Zaman newspaper. Writing for Zaman does not constitute membership of a terrorist organisation," he said.

The newspaper and Gülen movement had remained untouched by Turkish prosecutors until very recently, Zorba added. "It is not lawful to expect citizens to look at an organisation as criminal when Turkish prosecutors themselves have not done so," he said.

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