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Former Zaman daily executive detained in western Turkey on coup charges

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The deputy editor-in-chief of a now-closed newspaper in Turkey has been detained in the western province of İzmir on charges of attempting to destroy the constitutional order due to his alleged role in a failed coup in 2016, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Mehmet Kamış, who also used to write columns for the Zaman daily, was detained in the Çeşme district of İzmir by teams from Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization and the organized crime unit of the İzmir Police Department.

The Zaman daily, which was Turkey’s best-selling newspaper, was closed down by the Turkish government following the coup attempt on July 15, 2016 due to its alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement.

The government accuses the movement of masterminding the failed coup, although the movement strongly denies any involvement in it.

Many Zaman daily executives and journalists had to flee Turkey before and after the paper’s closure fearing unlawful arrest due to a crackdown the government launched on the movement before the coup attempt and intensified after it.

Some Zaman journalists who stayed in Turkey were arrested and given lengthy sentences due to their alleged links to the movement, which is labelled as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government. The movement also rejects the terrorism accusation.

Kamış was being tried in absentia along with 16 others, mostly journalists from Zaman and other Gülen-affiliated media organizations.

The prosecutor indicted the defendants for aiding the movement in its alleged efforts to topple the Turkish government.

The defendants were accused of having prior knowledge of the coup attempt and sending messages in favor of the coup.

Video footage on state-run TRT Haber showed Kamış being pushed into a police car by police officers.

Kamış is facing three aggravated life sentences on coup-related charges and an additional seven-and-a-half years on charges of terrorist organization membership.

A TV commercial run by Zaman which according to the prosecutor sent implicit messages about the coup was included as evidence in the indictment.

The indictment claimed the Zaman TV commercial that was aired nine months, 10 days prior to the failed coup on July 15, 2016 was a signal for the military coup attempt by the Gülen movement. The prosecutor claimed that through TV ads in which a baby smiles after scenes of chaos the Gülen movement sent messages to its members.

Among the prominent figures in the trial were novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan, former Zaman daily editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanlı, former Today’s Zaman daily editor-in-chief Bülent Keneş and former design director of Zaman daily Fevzi Yazıcı.

Altan, Ilıcak and Yazıcı were arrested immediately after the coup attempt and served sentences.

Another defendant in the trial, police academy lecturer Tuğrul Özşengül, 56, died of a heart attack in prison in July 2022.

Rights groups routinely accuse Turkey of undermining media freedom by arresting journalists and shutting down critical media outlets, especially since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived the failed coup.

Turkey is ranked 165th in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index, among 180 countries, not far from North Korea, which occupies the bottom of the list.

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