Turkey demands life for journalists in coup bid trial

A member of the special forces stands guard outside the Sincan Penal Institution at the 4th Heavy Penal Court in Ankara, in this August 1, 2017 photo. (AFP)
Updated 12 December 2017
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Turkey demands life for journalists in coup bid trial

ISTANBUL: Turkish prosecutors on Monday demanded life terms for three veteran Turkish journalists on trial over accusations of links to the 2016 failed coup, in a case that has raised new concerns for freedom of speech in the country.
The brothers Ahmet and Mehmet Altan and prominent commentator Nazli Ilicak are charged with violating the Turkish constitution in the trial, which began in June at the Istanbul criminal court.
They are accused of links to US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen who Ankara says masterminded the failed bid to oust Erdogan on July 15 last year.
Gulen denies ties to the incident, which left 249 people dead, not including the plotters. Turkey accuses his movement of being the “Fethullah Terrorist Organization” (FETO) but supporters deny this.
The journalists have been charged with having foreknowledge of the coup bid and being involved in the sending of subliminal messages that it was to happen, including an October 2015 advertising campaign by the now defunct pro-Gulen newspaper Zaman.
All three reject the charges.
Ilicak, 73, was one of the very first journalists arrested in July after the coup bid. Briefly an MP from 1999, she wrote for several dailies including Hurriyet.
“I see FETO as a terror group. Before July 15, I did not know,” she was quoted as telling the court on Monday by private-run news agency Dogan, adding: “I am not a member of FETO.”
Ahmet Altan, 67, is a novelist and journalist who has written for some of Turkey’s leading dailies including Hurriyet and Milliyet as well as founding the now-closed opposition daily Taraf. Mehmet Altan, 64, has written books on Turkish politics. Both were detained in early September although Ahmet Altan was released in mid-September before rapidly being re-arrested.
In the same case, prosecutors also demanded life sentences for former Zaman newspaper marketing manager Yakup Simsek, police academy instructor Sukru Tugrul Ozsengul and Zaman layout designer Fevzi Yazici.
The Altan brothers and Ilicak are also accused of appearing together on a TV show on a pro-Gulen channel just before the coup bid and issuing a message that the attempted overthrow was in the offing.
The court ordered them to remain in prison and said the next hearing would be on Feb. 12, according to Dogan agency.
The case is separate to the trial of 17 current and former writers, cartoonists and executives from the opposition Cumhuriyet (“Republic“) daily on charges supporting terror groups.
Four of the suspects are still behind bars, including investigative reporter Ahmet Sik, and the trial is seen as a critical test of press freedom. The next hearing in that case is Dec. 25.
Turkey ranks 155 on the latest Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index, below Belarus and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to the P24 press freedom website, there are 153 journalists behind bars in Turkey, most of whom were detained under the state of emergency imposed after the coup bid.
— AFP


Nicaragua police raid opposition paper, end rights groups’ permits

View of damages at the office of Nicaraguan journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, who rents at the building of the NGO Center of Investigation on Communication (CINCO) in Managua on December 14, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 16 December 2018
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Nicaragua police raid opposition paper, end rights groups’ permits

  • Confidencial’s front door was sealed with tape following the raid. Police seized work equipment and documents

MANAGUA: Nicaraguan police have raided the offices of an opposition daily and then stripped human rights and activist groups’ permission to operate, those targeted said Saturday.
Nine police officers armed with rifles entered the offices late Friday and started pushing people, beating others and making fun of reporters after journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro challenged them to take on his media outlet without a search warrant in his online daily Confidencial and news broadcasts Esta Semana and Esta Noche, he said.
What you are doing “is just de facto. If you have the order, I ask you to show it,” Chamorro said from the street to the agent who barred him and other colleagues from entering the offices.
“Police did not show any order at all... so this is an armed assault on private property, freedom of the press, freedom of expression and free enterprise,” he later told reporters.
Confidencial’s front door was sealed with tape following the raid. Police seized work equipment and documents.
Chamorro went to the police headquarters to demand the return of equipment, noting that the newspaper and television programs “are private companies attached to the commercial register, and have nothing to do with organizations that are being persecuted.”
The offices of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) and four other NGOs in Managua were also occupied, and lawmakers canceled their permits to operate.
“Brutal display of brute force against journalists from @confidencial_ni in Nicaragua... this regime... aims to demolish critical voices in its country,” Human Rights Watch director Jose Miguel Vivanco said on Twitter.
Leftist President Daniel Ortega first came to power in 1979 as a leader of the leftist Sandinista rebels that toppled the US-backed Somoza family dictatorship. After leaving office in 1990 he returned to power in 2007.