The new Turkey
Vahit Yazgan

Former Izmir Province correspondent for the now-shuttered daily newspaper Zaman

24-Jan-2019 16:55

Medium: Internet, Print
Charge: Anti-state
Imprisoned: 8 August 2016


Police detained Vahit Yazgan, the former Izmir Province correspondent for the now-shuttered daily newspaper Zaman, in the coastal city of Izmir on August 8, 2016, according to court documents and his lawyer.

Izmir's Fourth Court of Penal Peace on August 25, 2016, ordered the journalist jailed pending trial on charges that he was a follower of exiled Fethullah Gülen, according to court documents and his legal representative. 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 attempt on July 15, 2016.

A court in March 2016 ordered Zaman's parent company put under government trustees, saying the company and the newspaper had ties to the Gülenist network. CPJ research shows that authorities targeted dozens of Zaman journalists with arrest and prosecution on terrorism charges since the failed July 2016 coup.

Police interrogated Yazgan about his work for the newspaper, according to records of that interrogation, which CPJ has reviewed. Yazgan told police that he worked as a correspondent for the newspaper until government-appointed trustees took over, and that he had been unemployed since. He denied having any ties to the Gülenist movement. According to records of his arraignment, which CPJ has also reviewed, he repeated these denials before the Izmir court, adding that he was not religious.

Yazgan's trial on a charge of “leading a terrorist organization” started in Izmir on July 1, 2017, according to reports by the right-wing Ihlas News Agency (IHA), which described the journalist as “a former Aegean region representative for the daily Zaman.”

The indictment said that Yazgan helped members of FETÖ infiltrate Izmir police and the local organization of the nationalist Great Union Party (BBP), and that he managed FETÖ/PDY’s infiltration of businessmen in the province, according to the IHA report. A former BBP politician testified that in 2014, Yazgan said that the “Hizmet movement,” the official name of the Gülenists, had failed to appoint a police chief in Izmir whom the group favored, IHA reported.

Yazgan denied being a terrorist, according to IHA. The authorities said Yazgan had the Bylock app on his phone, which he denied, and also cited his bank account at Asya as evidence, the report said. Authorities allege that both use of the Bylock encrypted messaging app and banking at Asya are evidence of FETÖ/PDY membership.

Yazgan told the court that he had health problems due to his continued imprisonment, according to news reports. Details of the health issues were not specified.

The court refused two requests in 2017 that Yazgan be released pending trial, according to press reports that cited the official Anadolu News Agency.

The next hearing was scheduled for February 2018.

As of late 2017, the journalist’s lawyer had not responded to CPJ’s calls to request information on the case.

Yazgan was being held in Buca Kırıklar Prison in Izmir's Buca District.

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