Number of journalists in prison reaches 151 after arrest of three journalists

A Turkish court ruled to arrest three journalists who reported details on an email hack whose victim was a Turkish minister on charges of “membership in an armed terror group” on Jan. 17.

The 8th Criminal Judicature of Peace ruled for the arrest of the former news editor of the shuttered DİHA daily Ömer Çelik; former editor of Diken news portal Tunca Öğreten and BirGün daily employee Mahir Kanaat.

The three journalists were detained on 25 December 2016 along with three others; Derya Okatan, the responsible managing editor for the ETHA news agency; DİHA reporter Metin Yoksu, and Yolculuk newspaper managing editor Eray Saygın.

The court ruled to release Yoksu, Sargın and Okatan on probation terms, meaning they are barred from international travel and will have to check in with their local police station at regular intervals.

The journalists were kept under detention for 24 days before finally being arraigned. ETHA’s Okatan had been on a hunger strike for 24 days.

Pre-trial custody can last up to 30 days under Turkey’s State of Emergency, declared on 20 July 2015 following a coup attempt.

Although all six journalists were taken into custody on terror-related charges, the pro-government Sabah daily on 25 December 2016 had announced that the journalists would be detained in connection with reports they published regarding a hacking scandal, where email correspondence of Berat Albayrak, Turkey’s Energy Minister and also the son-in-law of the country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, were leaked to the media. All six journalists were directed questions about the hacking scandal in their interrogation.

The arrests bring the number of journalists in Turkish prisons to 151. A full list of their names and dates of arrest can be found here.

Other detentions

On Jan. 18, Abdullah Kaya, a reporter for DİHA in Ağrı province, was taken into custody during a home raid. The journalist was taken to the Diyadin Police Department.

Also on Jan. 17, Ünal Tanık, the editor-in-chief of Rota Haber, a news website shut down under State of Emergency decrees, was detained in Yalova province. He had been sought by Turkish authorities on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” since the start of the probe into the July 15 coup.

Indictment against 28 journalists submitted to court

The Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office on Jan. 18 completed an indictment against 29 journalists,  most of whom arrested as part of the post-coup investigation.

The prosecutor seeks between 10 – 15 years in prison for the 28 suspects on charges of attempting to overthrow the state or terrorism. The prosecutor has asked for life without the possibility of parole for Said Sefa, the former editor in-chief of the news website Haberdar.

The prosecutor asked for up to 10 years for Atilla Taş, a singer-turned-Twitter phenomenon who’d started writing in the shuttered Meydan daily prior to the coup.

The prosecutor wants between five to ten yars for the other journalists, who are Abdullah Kılıç, Ahmet Memiş, Ali Akkuş, Atilla Taş, Bayram Kaya, Bülent Ceyhan, Bünyamin Köseli, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Cihan Acar, Cuma Ulus, Davut Aydın, Emre Soncan, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Habib Güler, Halil İbrahim Balta, Hanım Büşra Erdal, Hüseyin Aydın, Muhammed Sait Kuloğlu, Muhterem Tanık, Murat Aksoy, Mustafa Erkan Acar, Mutlu Çölgeçen, Oğuz Usluer, Seyid Kılıç, Ufuk Şanlı, Ünal Tanık, Yakup Çetin and Yetkin Yıldız on charges of “membership in an armed terrorist organization.

Mahalli’s health condition

The daughter of Hüsnü Mahalli, a political columnist who was arrested on Dec. 5, 2016 on charges of “insulting the president” and “insulting public officials serving on a board on the basis of their duty” recently tweeted that her father’s health condition related to his Multiple Sclerosis (MS) has worsened. On Jan. 16, Mahalli’s daughter Sevra Mahalli tweeted that her father’s blood tests returned results that were increasingly below the norm.

Özgür Gündem solidarity trial

An Istanbul court on Jan. 13 sentenced musician Şanar Yurdatapan to one year and three months in prison in a case for participating in a solidarity campaign with the now closed daily Özgür Gündem, marking the first conviction in the case.

During the third hearing of the case, the Istanbul 22nd Court of Serious Crimes sentenced Yurdatapan to one year and three months on charges of “engaging in terror propaganda.” The sentence was suspended.

Hrant Dink murder trial

Another session was heard on Jan. 17 in the trial regarding the 2007 association of Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist and the editor-in-chief of the bilingual Agos daily. One of the key suspects in the case, Ali Fuat Yılmazer, a retired intelligence officer, said in his statement that his appointment had been decided by Abdulkadir Aksu, who was Interior Minister at the time, and that the former minister should be arrested. 

In the past seven years since Dink’s death, many court statements including a report filed by the State Inspection Authority, found negligence on the part of gendarmerie and police officials in Trabzon, if not indirect involvement in the murder.

 NYT reporter held at airport

On Jan. 17, The New York Times announced that its veteran correspondent Rod Nordland had been held at the Atatürk Airport by border police and was forced back to return to London. No official statements came about the decision not to let the journalist enter the country.

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