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Turkey Hands Aggravated Life Sentences to Four Journalists

Four press members and journalists have been handed aggravated life sentences by a Turkish court on Friday while trial against writers and personnel of the now-defunct Zaman newspaper was postponed to July.

Hidayet Karaca, former chairman of Samanyolu TV Group, Ilhan Isbilen, Kazim Avci, Alaaddin Kaya, the owner of Feza Media Group all received aggravated life sentences while Abdulkadir Aksoy, Dilaver Azim and Ali Celik were handed 10 years and six months prison sentence.

Karaca who was detained in December 2014 already received 31-year jail term in a separate trial.

Both Samanyolu and Zaman were affiliated with Gulen Movement. The government blames the movement and its spiritual leader Fethullah Gulen for the attempted coup in July 2016 But Gulen strongly denies any role in the coup.

Separately, a number of journalists appeared at hearings Istanbul Caglayan Courthouse on Thursday and Friday.

Prosecutors accuse 11 editors and writers from the Zaman daily of attempting to topple constitutional order, aiding and abetting a terrorist organization, membership in a terrorist organization and

Ibrahim Karayegen, the former night news editor of Zaman daily, asked for his release.

“An indictment has to be grounded upon factual realities, not on impressions… The indictment regards journalistic activities as crimes. If you charge me with the coup, then there must be ‘in the act’ situation or you have to prove my connection with the coup plotters,” he told the court.

He reminded that the Constitutional Court ruled that courts cannot decide how journalists practice their profession, how they can write stories.

“I worked for the Zaman daily for 12 years. I was not a manager. During this period, the newspaper had had no link to any terrorist organization,” Karayegen said during his defense at the court on Thursday.

He lamented violation of fair trial and disregard of universal legal norms. The journalist who was beaten and tortured for days after his immediate arrest said basic tenets of universal laws must be appliedeven during the state of emergency.

Harlem Desir, the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, called for the release of journalists.

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