Turkey’s main opposition visits daily Cumhuriyet journalists, executives in prison

Turkey’s main opposition visits daily Cumhuriyet journalists, executives in prison

ISTANBUL
Turkey’s main opposition visits daily Cumhuriyet journalists, executives in prison

A delegation from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) on April 28 visited jailed daily Cumhuriyet journalists and executives in Istanbul’s Silivri Prison. 

CHP deputy leader Veli Ağbaba, Ankara lawmakers Necati Yılmaz and Şenal Sarıhan and Muğla deputy Nurettin Demir compiled a report with messages from the arrested journalists and executives after their visit. 

In its report, the CHP said it is “ironic” to show Cumhuriyet in the same line as the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), which is widely believed to have been behind the July 15, 2016, failed coup attempt. 

“It’s one of the many ironies to show Cumhuriyet, which has been following a publishing policy against terrorist groups since its foundation and has been making anti-FETÖ publications even when the AKP [the ruling Justice and Development Party] and FETÖ were arm-in-arm, in the same line with FETÖ and the PKK. The people we met said they face heavier conditions as they are being charged on FETÖ membership,” it stated, adding that they will appear before the court on July 24, nine months after their arrest. 

International Press Institute (IPI) Board member Kadri Gürsel said they were arrested on charges that have “no evidence or reality.”

“This is a violation of human rights. Even though the indictment was prepared, we are continued to be punished with long imprisonment,” Gürsel told the CHP delegation, adding that the only way he can have connections to ByLock, a smartphone application that came to prominence after it emerged that the movement of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen used it to communicate with members, might be because he received phone calls. 

“I was called and received messages countless times as a part of FETÖ’s media campaign in 2014. An active journalist can talk to people on the phone. I can’t know if the people I talked to were ByLock users,” he said.
 
Journalist Ahmet Şık, meanwhile, said “they are facing a terrifying evil.”

“The only difference between being tried by Gülenists and today is that the former was producing evidence, but now that’s not even needed. How can these judges look at the face of their children? They initially called me a FETÖ member, but switched to the PKK after seeing that the former didn’t work,” Şık said. 

The daily’s former editor-in-chief, Murat Sabuncu, said they want democracy for Turkey. 

“We want democracy for Turkey and not because the United States or the European Union wants it. We want human rights and freedom. I’m being tried over calls that I don’t even know from whom. However, sooner or later journalism will win. We are under complete isolation,” he told the CHP. 

The charges against Cumhuriyet’s staff include “membership to an armed terrorist organization” and “helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member of it.”