Zaman, Yeni Hayat | Imprisoned in Turkey | July 29, 2016

Job:Internet Reporter, Print reporter
Medium:Internet, Print
Beats Covered:Crime
Local or Foreign:Local
Length of Sentence:Not Sentenced
Reported Health Problems:No

An Istanbul court on July 29, 2016, ordered Çetin, a former court reporter for the shuttered dailies Zaman and Yeni Hayat, to be detained pending trial as part of a sweeping purge of journalists and others suspected of following exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, according to his indictment. The government accuses Gülen of maintaining a terrorist organization and "parallel state structure" (or FETÖ/PDY, as the government calls it) within Turkey that it blames for orchestrating a failed July 15, 2016, military coup.

CPJ could not determine exactly when police detained Çetin. The state-run Anadolu News Agency on July 25, 2016, reported that authorities had issued a warrant for his arrest. Istanbul's Fifth Court of Penal Peace late on July 29, 2016, arraigned Çetin and 16 other journalists, ordering them jailed pending trial on charges of "being members of an armed terrorist organization," according to the media monitoring group P24.

The daily newspaper Hürriyet reported that the 17 journalists were questioned by prosecutors on accusations of "being members of an armed terrorist organization," "founding or leading an armed terrorist organization," "knowingly and willingly helping [a terrorist] organization without being involved in the organization's hierarchical structure," and "committing crimes in the name of a [terrorist] organization without being a member."

The government took over Zaman and affiliated publications in March 2016, alleging links to the Gülenist network, and shut them down by emergency decree in July after the attempted coup. After government-appointed trustees took control of Zaman, a group of Zaman journalists founded Yeni Hayat, which also stopped publishing after the failed coup attempt.

When the trial started in March 2017, an Istanbul court ordered Çetin and several of the other journalists to be released while the case was heard. However, authorities brought fresh charges and the journalists were ordered to remain in custody, according to reports. Authorities ordered an investigation into the judges who had ordered the release and they were relieved of duty, according to reports.

In the original indictment, all but one co-accused were charged with "being a member of an armed [terrorist] organization," which carries up to 10 years in prison. The second indictment listed the charges as "attempting, through violence and force, to disrupt and replace the order as recognized by Turkey's Constitution" and "attempting through violence and force to eliminate or prevent Parliament from carrying out its duties." Both charges carry a maximum life sentence without parole.

CPJ found both indictments to be similar to those presented at trials of other journalists in Turkey. Prosecutors cited as evidence in these cases journalistic activity or acts of free speech and communication, or cited circumstantial evidence such as being employed by a certain media outlet or having an account at a bank allegedly linked to Gülenists.

The first indictment accused the defendants of manipulating the public perception of FETÖ to turn citizens against the government, which prosecutors argued, made the journalists members of the group that Turkey alleges is behind the attempted coup. The second indictment, which was presented as an addition to the original case, argued that the journalists should be held responsible for more than alleged membership to the group.

In Çetin's case, prosecutors cited as evidence in the first indictment his work and social media activity. The second indictment cited as evidence his account with Bank Asya, which the government alleged to be a Gülenist institution; his frequent travel abroad; and his communication records with people who were wanted or were on trial for alleged Gülenist activity. Some of these people had the Bylock App on their phones, according to authorities, who claim that the app is evidence of being a FETÖ member. Çetin did not have the app installed on his phone, according to the indictment. The indictment did not specify why traveling abroad was evidence of wrongdoing.

Çetin was being held in Istanbul's Silivri Prison.

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