Mehmet Kamış, a former columnist and deputy chief editor for the shuttered Turkish daily Zaman, was arrested in November 2023. He had evaded an arrest warrant for more than seven years on charges, filed in the aftermath of the failed 2016 coup, of terrorism and attempting to overthrow the government.
After the July 15, 2016, failed coup, the government carried out a sweeping purge of suspected followers of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen. The government accused Gülen of maintaining a terrorist organization and "parallel state structure" (or FETÖ/PDY, as the government calls it) within Turkey that it blamed for orchestrating the military coup attempt.
Two months before the coup attempt, a court ordered the government to appoint trustees to manage Feza Media Group, which formerly published Zaman, saying the company had links to FETÖ/PDY. The government then used emergency powers it assumed after the failed coup to order the newspaper closed. Police arrested dozens of former Zaman journalists on terrorism charges, citing their former employment at the newspaper as evidence.
Kamış had worked for Zaman from 1991 until he resigned in October 2015, according to the court minutes of his arrest, which CPJ reviewed.
On November 22, 2023, police in the western province of Izmir detained Kamış and transported him to Istanbul, where he was formally arrested by a court pending trial, according to multiple news reports. The reports said that Kamış denied the charges.
Kamış went into hiding after an arrest warrant was issued on July 27, 2016, as part of the post-coup crackdown. The journalist told the judge who arrested him that he had been staying a number of different places in Izmir since then, according to the court minutes.
Kamış had been indicted in 2017 with other journalists, including Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, and Nazlı Ilıcak, but his case was removed from the trial along with other defendants who had evaded capture.
CPJ reviewed the 2017 indictment, in which Kamış was charged with four offenses: attempting to eliminate the constitutional order, the Turkish government, and the Turkish parliament; and being a member of an armed terrorist organization. Prosecutors alleged that Kamış and the other defendants made propaganda in support of the coup. The evidence against the journalist included his employment by Zaman; owning books written by Gülen; having three one U.S. dollar bills at his house, which authorities considered symbols of the organization’s hierarchy; having a bank account at Bank Asya, which was taken over by the government due to its alleged links to Gülenists; and his phone records.
Osman Yedekçi, the journalist’s lawyer, told CPJ in a November 29 phone call that he had yet to review the case and was unable to answer questions, including about whether new charges will be presented in addition to those contained in the 2017 indictment.
Alperen Kamış, the journalist’s son, told CPJ that his father is in good health but uses medicine for hypertension. Kamış was allowed access to his medication during the arrest and incarceration, his son said.
CPJ’s email to the Turkish Ministry of Justice in late 2023 did not receive any reply.