Reporter sentenced to 6 years for ‘crime’ of working for Zaman

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Journalist Mehmet Kuru (L)

Turkish journalist Mehmet Kuru was sentenced by a Turkish court to six years, three months in prison simply because he used to work for the critical Zaman daily, the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) reported.

Zaman, once the highest circulating newspaper in Turkey with 1.2 million copies sold daily at its peak, was unlawfully seized by the government in March 2016 and turned into a government mouthpiece overnight. It was shut down in July 2016 by the Turkish government under a statutory decree over its alleged affiliation with the Gülen movement in the aftermath of a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

According to a report by the Aktif Haber online news website, the Eskişehir 2nd High Criminal Court convicted reporter Mehmet Kuru on a single charge. His crime was the job he had with the Zaman daily.

The court accused of Kuru of “membership in a terrorist organization” based solely on the fact that he had worked for Zaman for 16 years as a reporter and sentenced him to six years, three months in prison.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 259 journalists and media workers were in jail as of Oct. 17, 2017, most in pre-trial detention. Of those in prison, 235 have been arrested pending trial, while 24 have been convicted. Detention warrants are outstanding for 133 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the coup attempt.

Turkey survived a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 2016. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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