European Federation of Journalists

Turkey: Zaman journalists and columnists heavily sentenced to prison

On July 06, 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 the Turkish authorities following the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016.

“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”, said the EFJ.

A total of eleven suspects – four of them in pretrial 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 U.S.- based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen.

The court found six journalists guilty of “being a member of an armed  organization” 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. Of the four journalists held in detention 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 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.