First Published: 2017-11-08

Turkey court releases opposition journalist ahead of trial
Izmir-based journalist Bekir Gokmen Ulu is accused of links to group blamed by Turkish government for failed coup in 2016.
Middle East Online

Critics say Turkish government crackdown goes well beyond coup plotters, targeting journalists and opposition politicians.

ISTANBUL - A Turkish court on Wednesday ordered the release of an opposition newspaper journalist accused of links to the group blamed by the government for last year's failed coup.

Izmir-based journalist Bekir Gokmen Ulu from the Sozcu daily was ordered to be released by Istanbul's main court, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.

He is one of four staff members from the newspaper who went on trial on Tuesday, in the latest case of journalists facing charges under state of emergency laws imposed after the failed putsch to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Two of the other defendants in the case, news editors Mediha Olgun and Yonca Kaleli, had already been allowed to go free while the case was heard. All three remain on trial on charges of "intentionally aiding a terror group" and face up to 15 years each in prison if convicted.

The fourth suspect, the newspaper's owner Burak Akbay, is accused of the more serious charges of "running an armed terror group" and "spreading terror propaganda" and could be imprisoned for up to 30 years.

An Istanbul prosecutor's office in May issued an arrest warrant for Akbay, who is believed to be abroad.

Witnesses in the hearing, some with close links to the government, dismissed the idea Sozcu had any links to the failed coup, raising questions about the viability of the case.

Journalist Fuat Ugur, of pro-government ATV Europe television, told the court he did not think that "Sozcu newspaper is being published by the Fethullah Terror Organisation".

The government blames the movement of US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen for the July 15, 2016 failed coup but Gulen strongly denies the charges.

Ugur's comments were backed by the staunchly pro-Erdogan columnist of the Star newspaper Cem Kucuk, causing surprise on social media.

Over 50,000 people have been arrested since the failed coup, while more than 140,000 people including public sector employees have been sacked or suspended over alleged links to Gulen and his movement.

Critics say the vast crackdown goes well beyond alleged coup plotters and opposition politicians and dozens of journalists have been caught up in the crackdown.

The nationalist Sozcu is on occasion vehemently anti-Erdogan and its angry front pages are regarded with suspicion even by some liberal Turks critical of the president.

It is the second opposition daily to be targeted after Cumhuriyet newspaper.

Four of its staffers remain in jail in a separate ongoing trial.


Libya to investigate 'slave auction' footage

Iraq top court declares Kurd referendum unconstitutional

Saudi Arabia, Arab allies push for unity against Iran, Hezbollah meddling

15 women killed in food aid crush in Morocco

Rare moments of joy at Arabs’ unprecedented World Cup qualifications

UN chief horrified by Libya slave auctions

Qatar 2022 chief has no regrets over hosting World Cup

Gheit says Lebanon should be 'spared' from regional tensions

Syria ‘de-escalation zone’ does nothing to stop civilian deaths

Is a demilitarised Palestinian state a viable option?

S&P affirms good Saudi credit ratings

Israel president faces big backlash over Palestinian scarf

Sudan leader to visit Russia Thursday

Seven years into Libya’s civil war, the chaos continues

Lebanon FM will not attend Arab League Iran summit

Syrian forces liberate Albu Kamal from IS

Israel votes to shut migrant centre, deport Africans

Diplomats from Iran, Russia, Turkey discuss Syria

Libya to investigate ‘slave auction’ footage

Piece by piece, Iran moves towards a ‘new empire’

Netanyahu faces new questioning over corruption case

Syria troops, allies retake most of Albu Kamal from IS

EU cuts funding to Turkey in 2018 budget

Lebanon's Hariri arrives in Paris

Egypt opens Gaza border for first time since unity deal

US-Russia rift threatens fragile prospects for Syria peace

'Caliphate' in tatters but IS still a threat

Saudi Arabia recalls ambassador to Berlin over Gabriel Lebanon comments

Russia again vetoes renewal of Syria gas attacks probe

UN weighs bid to save Syria gas attacks probe

IS attack kills 26 displaced people in Syria

Saudi FM says Lebanon 'held hostage by Hezbollah'

Egypt to open Rafah crossing for 3 days

Turkish troops pulled from NATO drill amid new tensions

Six children among civilians killed in shelling of Eastern Ghouta

US official calls on Sudan to stop 'church demolitions'

Hariri set to leave Saudi Arabia for France

Fears of bombs, IS cells still haunt Mosul

Iraq retakes Rawa, last town held by IS

Riyadh striking deals with people detained in anti-graft purge

Iran criticises French Mideast policy

Russia again blocks UN resolution on Syria action

Israel military chief says ready to cooperate with Saudi Arabia

Egypt confirms death of wanted jihadist

UK denies link between citizen detained in Iran and £400m debt