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Published On: Mon, Jun 19th, 2017

Turkey puts 17 journalists on trial for alleged “Gülenist links”

Christof Lehmann (nsnbc) : Seventeen Turkish journalists will face trial before a court in Istanbul on Monday for alleged links to the so-called Fetullah Gülenist Terror Organization (FETÖ). The accused journalists were arrested during a wave of arrests and purges after last year’s failed coup, and have spent months behind bars.

Nazli Ilicak_Journalism_Turkey_Apr 2017The Istanbul Terror and Organized Crime Investigation Bureau prepared an indictment in April, in which a prosecutor accused journalist Nazli Ilicak and two brothers, Ahmed Altan and Mehmet Altan of “attempting to remove the constitutional order” and “committing a crime on behalf of an armed terrorist group without being a member of it.”

Countless other journalists in Turkey, including the others who will be put on trial in Istanbul on Monday face identical or similar charges on what most human rights organizations describe as highly questionable and trumped-up charges aimed to silence media that don’t comply with what and ever more totalitarian AKP government considers as “compliant”.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused the US-based Hizmet (Service) Movement preacher Fethullah Gülen of orchestrating the failed coup in Turkey on July 16, 2016. Gülen – formerly a close ally of Erdogan until they feel out after the so-called Ergenekon and Balyoz affairs – is widely known for close ties to US’, Turkish and NATO intelligence networks.

The above mentioned trio are journalists in their sixties and seventies and wrote for Gulenist-linked publications. The prosecutor sought to charge the people with three aggravated life sentences and up to 15 years in prison. Several other journalists could face up to 22-and-a-half years in prison for “committing a crime on behalf of an armed terrorist group without being a member of it.”

Additionally, the 17 journalists face charges for “attempting to prevent the Turkish parliament from carrying out its duties or completely abolish it” and “attempting to remove the government of the Turkish Republic or prevent it from carrying out its duties”

Reporters Without Borders reported that 23 journalists, citizen writers and media assistants were killed in Turkey in 2017. It also reported as of Monday there are 368 such workers currently imprisoned awaiting trial.

The Turkish government’s repression of media has been described as the “death of journalism” by Amnesty International, which wrote Turkey accounts for one third of all the imprisoned journalists, media workers and executives globally.

However, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as claiming “There is not a single journalist who is under custody in Turkey for writing stories. If there is one, I would like to know who he/she is. … Those who revealed themselves as journalists have either supported terrorism or terrorist organizations.”

Turkey’s lethal freedom of the press

Amidst the height of the 2016 crackdown on Turkish media and journalists, Prime Minister Ahmed Davotoglu assured that Turkey had a free press. nsnbc international’s records over recent years show that the AKP government’s record rather suggests an authoritarian and in fact lethal approach to controlling media, journalists and media coverage.

A court ruling in March 2016 that rubber-stamped the government-takeover of the Feza Journalism media group was merely one symptom of the Turkish AKP government’s crackdown on any media and journalists that are non-compliant with policy guidelines dictated by the AKP and in fact personally, by President R. Tayyip Erdogan. But latest developments first.

Feza Journalism owns Zaman, Turkey’s largest-circulation newspaper and one of its top private news agencies. The seizure of the newspaper prompted crowds to gather outside Zahman’s headquarters in Istanbul to protect the journalists from eviction. Protests continue as of this day.

In October 2015 the AKP government seized Ipek Media upon criminal accusations. The media are linked to the network around Fetullah Gülen, who is living in self-imposed exile in the United States and whom high-ranking secular military officers have accused of being a CIA asset. Ironically, the US-based journal “Foreign Policy” should not miss out on criticizing the AKP government on that point.

Erdogan, the AKP and the Dark Side

In March 2014 nsnbc international published the audio of three clandestinely recorded phone conversations between the then Prime Minister R. Tayyip Erdogan and the owner of Miliyet, Erdogan Demiören. Prime Minister Erdogan did not only intimidate the owner of Miliyet so much that he burst out in tears. He also prompted the 75-year-old newspaper owner to fire his staff and to censor “unacceptable media coverage. (transcript of the clandestinely recorded conversations HERE).

From Dark to Deep Black and Lethal

October 2014, two days after the US American journalist of Lebanese origin, Serena Shim, said that Turkish intelligence had accused her of spying, she died in a car crash. Her car collided with another vehicle when she was returning from an in situ report in Suruç, a rural district of Şanlıurfa Province of Turkey. Serena Shim covered the trafficking weapons to Islamist insurgents in Syria via Turkey. Her death and the accident have never been fully investigated as a possible crime.

In September 2012 Journalist Maya Naser was shot dead by a sniper in Damascus. The timing of the assassination indicates that Maya Naser may have been targeted because he came dangerously close to revealing serious war crimes of the Turkish government.

Maya Naser wrote, ”while I was covering the military operations in Aleppo, we saw the ID documents of 13 Turkish insurgents. When checking their identities we discovered that one of the fighters was the brother of the 2003 HSBC bomber from Istanbul”.” Such information”, Maya Naser wrote, ”led us to believe that the Turkish government is sending those convicted or under suspicion of being Al-Qaeda members to fight as insurgents in Syria”.

In subsequent, personal conversations between Maya Naser and the author of this article, he reiterated that there is further evidence that corroborates the suspicion that the government of Turkey is sending prisoners who have received a death sentence and those who serve life time sentences to Syria as an opportunity to be released from prison and as a chance to clear their record.

International lawyer Christopher Black responded to Maya Naser’s information, stating that if his information was correct, then the Turkish government is committing a war crime under the Rome Statute, which forbids forced service of non-combatants in war.

According to Christopher Black it would be possible to file a complaint with the ICC against Turkey and NATO if corroborating evidence could be produced, stating that if Turkey is involved in these crimes, then its partners are equally guilty. Two days later Maya Naser was shot by a sniper when he and his cameraman rushed to the scene of a double bomb attack in Damascus.

Further inquiries revealed that insurgents supported by Turkish special forces and intelligence were monitoring Maya Nasr’s Twitter feeds prior to the assassination. Further investigations by nsnbc international also revealed that the sniper team that assassinated Nasr was on location about two hours before the bomb blast that prompted Maya Nasr and his colleague Hossein Mortada to come to the scene of the bombing. The developments in Turkey bring to mind the words of the renown author Albert Camus who wrote:

“A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad”.

CH/L – nsnbc 19.06.2017

About the Author

- Dr. Christof Lehmann is the founder and editor of nsnbc. He is a psychologist and former independent political consultant on conflict, conflict resolution and a wide range of other political issues. In March 2013 he established nsnbc as a daily, independent, international on-line newspaper. He can be contacted at nsnbc international at nsnbc.wordpress@gmail.com

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