Jailed Turkish columnist voices regret at writing for Gülen-linked Zaman in first hearing
ISTANBULSpeaking at the first hearing into daily Zaman defendants on Sept. 18, Şahin Alpay, a former columnist for the now-closed newspaper, expressed “regret” at writing for the outlet, which had close links to the network of U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gülen.
During the hearing at the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court, Alpay, who had been jailed since last summer along with 21 others, said he was “not aware of the illegal side of the Gülen network” until last year’s failed coup attempt.
“I would never have written for Zaman if I had even the slightest thought that members of the Gülen movement could play a role in a coup attempt. I condemn the July 2016 coup attempt. I regret having ever written at Zaman. I was badly mistaken to not see the dark face of this movement,” he reportedly said in his plea.
Alpay said he was not a member of any religious community and demanded his release from jail.
Another Zaman columnist on trial, Ali Bulaç, also said he never thought the network would attempt a coup and also demanded his release.
Bulaç denied allegations of being a member of the network, saying if he was one then he would have gone abroad like many other Gülen sympathizers in the media months before the failed coup attempt.
The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in Istanbul demands three aggravated life sentences for each of the defendants on charges of having links to the Gülen network, accused of attempting to overthrow the Turkish government, the constitution, the parliament, and prevent its activities.
The indictment said Zaman, which was founded in 1986, was totally taken over by the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) the following year and was sustained by money that came from members of the group.
The daily was closed down by the state in May 2016 after being taken over.
The prosecutor’s indictment said FETÖ had “used the media as a weapon” to “manipulate society,” adding that Zaman employed “columnists with ideas that could have supported the organization.”
In addition, the columnists “exceeded the boundaries of freedom of the press and expression, used expressions that breached the rights of state officials and institutions, made remarks that could destroy social peace and order, did not hesitate to call for a military coup, and therefore performed their duty within the organization’s hierarchy with articles in line with its goals and targets,” the indictment added.