Police at Istanbul Atatürk Airport detained Karayeğen, a former news editor for the shuttered daily newspapers Zaman and Yeni Hayat, the pro-government daily newspaper Sabah reported on September 26, 2016, and a court subsequently ordered him jailed pending trial on suspicion that he was a follower of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen.
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 July 15, 2016, military coup. An Istanbul court ordered that he be detained pending trial on September 24, 2016, according to the indictment.
Sabah reported that interrogators asked the journalist about his work for the two newspapers, but did not specify the date of his detention or arraignment.
Zaman was among the more than 100 newspapers, broadcasters, news agencies, and magazines the Turkish government ordered closed by decree on July 27, 2016, using emergency powers it assumed after the attempted coup, saying the media outlets were FETÖ/PDY mouthpieces, according to Turkey’s Official Gazette. Since then, CPJ research shows that Turkish authorities have jailed dozens of Zaman journalists pending trial on terrorism-related offenses.
In March 2016, a court ordered Zaman‘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. After the government-appointed trustees took control of Zaman and the newspaper’s editorial line changed, a group of Zaman journalists founded the newspaper Yeni Hayat, which stopped publishing after the failed July 2016 coup attempt.
Karayeğen is on trial alongside 30 journalists and media workers and an academic. All are charged with “attempting, through violence and force, to disrupt and replace the order as recognized by Turkey’s Constitution,” “attempting through violence and force to eliminate or prevent Parliament from carrying out its duties,” and “being a member of an armed terrorist organization.” Not all of the defendants are in custody.
The trial’s first hearing began in Istanbul on September 18, 2017, according to local reports.
In the indictment, reviewed by CPJ, the prosecution said that the defendants’ journalism, including opinion pieces or their employment by pro-Gülen outlets such as the daily Zaman and Cihan News Agency, is evidence that the journalists were part of the so-called Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure (FETÖ/PDY).
The indictment accused the journalists—which it referred to as “the media force of the terrorist organization”—of producing false news to weaken the government, insult or humiliate the authorities, attempt to disrupt the peace, and to create an environment suitable for a coup.
Karayeğen denies the charges, according to the indictment. If convicted, he faces multiple life sentences, without parole.
The next court date was scheduled for December 8, 2017, according to press reports.