Turkish journalist charged with links to coup plot

Soner Yalcın was charged with links to a shadowy, ultra-nationalist group accused of seeking to overthrow the govt.

Turkish journalist charged with links to coup plot

A prominent Turkish journalist was charged on Friday with links to a shadowy, ultra-nationalist group accused of seeking to overthrow the government, joining two of his colleagues in jail pending trial.

Shortly after the police search and the detention of the portal's administrators, odatv.com workers argued that police raided their office shortly after a video that showed Turkish police being trained by US police was posted online on odatv.com. The video also claimed that the discovery of munitions in Ankara's Zir Valley was a plan devised by the police.

However, police records have shown that Ergenekon prosecutor Zekeriya Oz decided to carry out a search of the portal's offices before the video was posted, Cihan news agency said.

Soner Yalcin, who runs the news website, was detained earlier this week in a case which triggered a diplomatic spat between Turkish officials and the new U.S. ambassador to Ankara.

Ambassador Francis Ricciardone, who said he did not know details of Yalcin's case, had remarked to reporters that it was hard to understand the detention of reporters in Turkey, given its avowed policy of supporting press freedom.

Turkish officials responded by warning the envoy against interfering in domestic affairs, with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu saying it was not right for an ambassador to make judgments over an ongoing coup investigation.

Yalcin and two of his colleagues were charged with being members of a "terrorist group", "obtaining and publishing secret state security documents" and "inciting hatred", media reports said. Court officials were not available to comment.

The journalists were questioned by prosecutors handling cases against the Ergenekon group, whose alleged members - including lawyers, writers and politicians - are accused of conspiracies against the government.

Public opinion was behind the government following the first arrests back in 2007, as few Turks want a return to coups that blighted the late 20th Century, but skepticism set is as the investigations broadened and many suspects have been held on remand for more than two years with no end in sight. A separate trial has begun of nearly 200 serving and military officers in the alleged "Sledgehammer" plot to undermine the government.

"Denial for govt role"

The Turkish Journalists Association condemned the authorities actions as a blow to press freedom.

"Democracy is the art of showing tolerance. The intolerance towards journalists trying to perform their duty for the public good in Turkey has taken on a grave dimension," it said.

Main opposition party leader Kemal Kilicaroglu also leapt on the case of Yalcin to accuse the government this week of pressuring the media and meddling in the coup investigations.

"If he was a racketeer, a supporter, he would have been patted on the back. If you think you can silence him by carrying out searches, exerting pressure, you picked the wrong person," Kilicaroglu said of Yalcin.

Prime Minister Erdogan denied any government interference, saying legal processes should be respected.

"Those who link this business with the government. I'm sorry but they are talking nonsense," he told party members.

"Media that saluted coup leaders"

Cases of journalists accused of involvement in anti-government plots have grabbed headlines, but there are wider concerns are about the prosecution of reporters - across the political spectrum - who write about the cases.

Twenty-three reporters from Zaman newspaper, sympathetic to the government, were in court this week on charges of violating confidentiality or influencing the course of cases.

"Of course, journalists should remain in a legal framework when they are writing news. But the problem is we are being prosecuted for writing about subjects which we think the public needs to now about," said Zaman news editor Fatih Ugur.

According to the Turkish Journalists Association, some 4,000 journalists were the target of investigations and cases had been opened against some 2,000 reporters.

Fifty-eight journalists were currently in jail for what they had written, often in pro-Kurdish or leftist publications.

Zaman columnist Huseyin Gulerce said the media were not so innocent, noting the role played by sections of the media in every military intervention since Turkey's first coup in 1960.

"It was the media that spread fear among the public and laid the groundwork for a coup. It was the media that saluted coup leaders as if they were heroes," he said.



Güncelleme Tarihi: 18 Şubat 2011, 11:53