Police in Istanbul detained Haşim Söylemez, a former columnist for the magazine Aksiyon, on July 26, 2016, as part of a sweeping purge of journalists and others suspected of following exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, according to press reports. 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 a failed military coup on July 15, 2016.
Istanbul’s Fifth Court of Penal Peace on June 30, 2016, arraigned Söylemez and 16 other journalists, ordering them jailed pending trial on charges of “being members of an armed terrorist organization,” according to the media monitoring group P24. The daily newspaper Hürriyet reported that the 17 journalists were questioned by prosecutors on accusations of “being members of an armed terrorist organization,” “founding or leading an armed terrorist organization,” “knowingly and willingly helping [a terrorist] organization without being involved in the organization’s hierarchical structure,” and “committing crimes in the name of a [terrorist] organization without being a member.”
A court in March 2016 ordered Aksiyon‘s parent company, the Feza Media Group, put under trustees selected by the government, saying the company and the newspaper had ties to the Gülenist network. On July 27, 2016, the government used emergency powers it assumed after the July 2016 failed coup attempt to close the magazine, saying it was a FETÖ/PDY mouthpiece.
CPJ research shows that authorities have targeted dozens of former journalists from media outlets owned by the Feza Media Group with arrest and prosecution on terrorism charges since the failed July 2016 coup attempt.
News reports did not specify where the journalists were being held, and CPJ was unable to reach the journalists’ lawyers. Dozens of other journalists jailed pending trial on similar accusations are being held in Istanbul’s Silivri Prison.