Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Turkey: Erdogan Dictatorship - Award-winning Turkish journalist faces "terrorist" charges

Published Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Turkish journalist facing trial for an alleged plot to overthrow the government was on Tuesday also charged with being a member of a "terrorist organization" and threatening and defaming the judiciary, the DHA news agency said.

It said an Istanbul court accepted an indictment from prosecutors seeking a seven-year prison term for the new charges against Ahmet Sik, who was released in March after more than a year awaiting trial in the "Ergenekon" case, which involves a web of alleged plots against Turkey's government.

The case has received significant attention, the latest sign of Turkey's crackdown on free speech, including the targeting of journalists critical of the Islamist-leaning government.
The prosecution of journalists and others as well as the detention of hundreds of people including senior military officers, has drawn criticism from Turkish civil society groups, as well as the United States and European Union.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has shown little tolerance for Turkish media critical of his policies, with known cases of journalists being threatened, intimidated, detained and forced to flee the country for fear of their safety.

Supporters of the governing AK Party, which has Islamist roots and faced hostility after coming to power in 2002 from an army that sees itself as the guardian of Turkey's secular foundations, call the Ergenekon trials a step towards rule of law.

But its critics say the trials aim to silence dissent against Turkey's longest-standing government in decades, and threaten the country's democracy.

The court in the Istanbul district of Silivri declined comment on Tuesday's indictment. Media reports said it included comments Sik, an award-winning journalist, made after his release from jail in March. The earlier charges against him are still pending.

Sik had after his release criticized the judiciary for being politically motivated and accused judges and prosecutors of inventing conspiracies.

The new charges accuse Sik of "being a member of an armed terrorist organization," as his actions seek to make use of the intimidating powers of criminal organizations, media quoted the new indictment as saying.

The indictment lists 39 judges and prosecutors overseeing the Ergenekon case as "victims."
Sik is now set to appear in court on September 13 on the new charges, one day before he appears in court for the ongoing Ergenekon trial.

(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)