A court in Istanbul has issued heavy sentences in the trial of journalists working for Zaman, a newspaper linked to the movement of the magnate and imam Fethullah Gülen, accused by Ankara of having organised a coup against the government in 2016.
Thirty-one employees of Zaman are on trial on charges of participating in the attempted putsch and being part of the Gülenist group, considered a terrorist organisation by the Turkish government. Last Friday, the court issued rulings against 11 journalists and columnists of the newspaper, which was shut down following the coup attempt.
Among the journalists tried, Ali Bulaç, Şahin Alpay, and Ahmet Turan Alkan were sentenced to 8 years and 9 months in prison. Another journalist, İbrahim Karayeğen, was imprisoned for 9 years, while Mümtaz’er Türköne and Mustafa Ünal were sentenced to 10 years and 6 months.
Journalists İhsan Dağı, Lale Sarıibrahimoğlu, Mehmet Özdemir, Nuriye Ural and Orhan Kemal Cengiz were acquitted of the charges. The court’s decision was denounced by various associations and press organisations as “politically motivated” because the evidence against them was based on articles written by journalists.
Turkey is in the process of transitioning from a parliamentary to a presidential administration, under which the current head of state, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will enjoy greatly enhanced powers. Among these new powers is the capacity to assign press cards to journalists.
Last Sunday, with one of the last decrees issued under the state of emergency that has been in force for two years, four other of Kurdish and socialist media outlets were closed (the newspapers Halkın Nabzı, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, Welat and the TV network Avantaj TV). Over 140 press organs were closed after the attempted coup, while about 2,500 journalists were laid off. According to campaigners, some 178 journalists are currently in prison.