Jailed journalist Baransu gets 17 years for report on MGK decision

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An İstanbul court has handed down a jail sentence of 17 years, one month to jailed investigative journalist Mehmet Baransu on four separate charges due to his report in 2013 on a National Security Council (MGK) decision concerning government plans to eliminate the faith-based Gülen movement.

Baransu, who worked for the now-closed Taraf daily, has been behind bars since March 2015.

Taraf ran a story in November 2013 by Baransu which reported that a decision was made at an MGK meeting, attended by top government and military officials, in 2004 to finish off the Gülen movement, inspired by the views of US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen.

The latest hearing of Baransu’s trial was held at the İstanbul Anatolia 2nd High Criminal Court on Monday which Baransu attended via the IT Voice and Image System (SEGBİS).

In his defense Baransu said he wanted a fair trial and that the trial should actually be dropped because it was not initiated within the four-month period following publication of his report as required by Turkey’s Press Law.

Recalling recent remarks of Turkish Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül, who said, “Let the world end if necessary if justice will be served,” and a promise by the Turkish government to make judicial reforms, Baransu said: “[In line with the remarks of the justice minister] I am expecting justice now from your court. They [the government] talk about a reform, so let the law be enforced here. I am asking for my acquittal,” said the journalist.

The court handed down the lengthy prison sentence to Baransu on charges of obtaining state documents, disclosing state documents, violating the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Law by obtaining MİT documents and disclosing MİT documents.

Another defendant in the trial, Murat Şevki Çoban, then-managing editor of the Taraf daily, was cleared of all charges.

Baransu was also sentenced over his 2013 reporting for Taraf of an alleged customs fraud involving the import of genetically modified rice by a pro-government businessman, which he claimed was hushed up by then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

In July the investigative journalist was sentenced to two years in prison for “violating privacy,” to four years for “disclosing classified information” and to 13 years, six months for “membership in an armed terrorist organization,” namely the Gülen movement.

President Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) accuse the faith-based movement of masterminding a failed coup on July 15, 2016 and label it a “terrorist organization,” although the group strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

The Taraf newspaper, shut down in 2016, gained prominence for its liberal stance and its extensive reporting on the operations of Turkey’s deep state, which is alleged to be a group of anti-democratic coalitions within the Turkish political system, including high-level figures from the Turkish military, security agencies and judiciary as well as the mafia.

Incarcerated in Silivri Prison in İstanbul, Baransu faces nearly a thousand years in jail as part of scores of other cases.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) described Turkey as “the world’s biggest jailer of professional journalists” in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index, in which Turkey was ranked 154th among 180 countries in terms of press freedom.

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