Erkan Akkuş

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Turkish authorities arrested Erkan Akkuş, a news anchor at Bugün TV, in August 2020, after he spent four years in hiding. He was accused of involvement in the country’s failed 2016 coup attempt, and in December 2020 was sentenced to six years and three months in prison for allegedly being a member of a terrorist organization.

On August 21, 2020, police in the western province of Kocaeli detained Akkuş and transported him to Istanbul on August 24, where he was formally arrested and charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization,” according to reports by CNN Turkey and daily newspaper Hürriyet.

Akkuş was wanted by the authorities as part of the sweeping purge of journalists and others suspected of following exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen. Akkuş went into hiding after an arrest warrant was issued in 2016 in relation to his alleged connection to the failed coup, according to those reports, which said that the journalist denied the charges.

The government accuses Gülen of maintaining a terrorist organization and "parallel state structure" (or FETÖ/PDY, as the government calls it) within Turkey that it blames for orchestrating the 2016 coup attempt. Bugün TV was shuttered in a July 2016 decree by Turkish authorities. 

Police interrogated Akkuş about his social media posts, which authorities allege were supportive of Gülen. Akkuş frequently posted political commentary on his Twitter account, where he has more than 80,000 followers, but had not tweeted since the 2016 coup attempt.

Akkuş denied being a member of the Gülen community during police questioning.

On December 21, 2020, the Kocaeli Court of Serious Crimes acquitted Akkuş on a charge of terrorism propaganda charge, but convicted him of being a member of a terrorist organization, and sentenced him to six years and three months in prison, according to the pro-government daily Sabah

Akkuş, who is being held at Silivri Prison in Istanbul and joined the hearing via teleconference, denied being a member of the Gülen community and said he only worked for their media for financial reasons, that report said.

CPJ was unable to find contact information for any lawyer representing Akkuş.

CPJ emailed the Turkish Ministry of Justice in October 2022 for comment but did not receive any reply.