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Unjustly Accused: The Arrest of Mehmet Kamış and the Erosion of Press Freedom in Turkey

Ilker Dogan*

Mehmet Kamış, the former Deputy Chief Editor of Zaman Newspaper, which was forcibly closed, was arrested yesterday and sent to prison.

Were we surprised? No!

During the witch hunt following July 15, there was already an ‘arrest’ warrant issued against him. The day before yesterday, he was detained in Çeşme through a joint operation of the police and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and was brought to Istanbul. He was arrested by the 26th Heavy Penal Court on charges of ‘attempted coup’…

The accusation against Mehmet Kamış is very severe for a journalist; ‘attempted coup!’

For an individual, a journalist to face such an accusation, they would need to actively participate in a coup, shoot at the public, attend meetings where coup plans are discussed, or at least keep a coup diary, advise the coup plotters, etc.; right?

None of these pieces of evidence are present in the file related to Mehmet Kamış!

He has neither attended a coup meeting nor been invited to the General Staff, nor has he given advice to commanders like ‘if you do it this way, it will be more effective’!

He hasn’t kept a coup diary either!

So, what is there?

The charges against Journalist Mehmet Kamış, as listed in the indictment prepared by Istanbul Public Prosecutor Can Tuncay in 2017, include:

  1. Working at Zaman Newspaper
  2. Having three $1 bills at home
  3. Depositing money in Bank Asya
  4. Having telephone contact with those tried in the roof case (former Zaman employees)

With these absurd pieces of evidence, a journalist can be arrested on very serious charges such as ‘attempted coup’… None of the ‘evidence’ listed above can be used even in a simple accusation, let alone in an ‘attempted coup’ charge…

The ink on the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regarding Yüksel Yalçınkaya has not even dried yet. Turkey has been sentenced to pay compensation solely because of such arbitrary decisions, where the law is violated. The ECHR said, “You cannot judge people for being ‘members of a terrorist organization’ with fabricated evidence and assumptions.” It reminded the principle of legality in crime and punishment and warned, “You cannot arrest people for actions (such as depositing money in a bank or working for an institution) that were not crimes at the time they were committed.”

None of the mentioned actions are crimes… But who cares about the law? Who cares about the Constitution?

The country is going through a frenzy… It is immersed in filth up to its neck. Everywhere you turn, you come up empty-handed…

Remember the claim by Good Party leader Meral Akşener about the hotel where ‘prostitution’ was allegedly taking place… What did Akşener say? “Let me tell you something more interesting, I follow that closely, I follow it as a former Minister of Interior. There are police directors who own hotels. Beyond prostitution in those hotels, orphaned girls are employed.”

In a normal country, a political party leader making such a claim should have caused an upheaval… What happened in Turkey? Nothing!

An operation was carried out in Istanbul the day before yesterday against suspects who were allegedly allowed to pass despite missing documents for the excavation trucks. 46 police officers were detained on charges of bribery!

Things smell fishy…

Remember the ‘whistleblower’ letter sent by Istanbul Anatolian Chief Public Prosecutor İsmail Uçar to the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) a few weeks ago. Uçar, who is from within the system, was exposing the bribery wheel turning in the judiciary, naming names. We are going through a period where decisions are bought with money in the courthouses, and believe me, this is a well-known secret!

Another piece of news; in Konya, it was revealed that an employee of the Ministry of Family and Social Services harassed a needy woman who went to deliver potatoes and onions and was later promoted to a manager.

The entire country is rotten…

The situation of the Turkish media is also pitiful. The arrest and imprisonment of journalist Mehmet Kamış not only caused celebration in the pro-government media but also created a ‘festive atmosphere’ in the so-called opposition media!

There is not a single media organization asking, “You arrested this man, but what are the pieces of evidence against him?” No one is even curious about the evidence related to Mehmet Kamış…

As if a bloody terrorist has been captured, and they are rejoicing as if he has been sent to prison with concrete evidence of the ‘coup attempt’ fabricated for the construction of the ‘one-man’ regime. They don’t hesitate to chew the gum of the invented ‘coup’ from top to bottom, and they feel no shame at all…

They are in a pitiable state…

In conclusion; Mehmet Kamış and journalists like him were abundant in this country. Many of his colleagues are abroad… Some are trying to continue their profession in very difficult conditions; some are driving for Uber, some are truck drivers, some are earning their livelihood as shelf attendants in supermarkets…

Mehmet Kamış has friends in prison too; those who have been detained for years… There are also friends who have stayed in prison for 4-5 years, paid the price, and got out; dozens of them… They have performed their profession with honor and paid the price; they are still paying. Their foreheads are clear, their heads are high…

Alperen Kamış, Mehmet Kamış’s son, shouted behind him as his father was being taken to prison, “Dad, we are proud of you!” Let’s tell Alperen to convey it to his father; we, his friends and, if he accepts, his brothers, are also proud of Mehmet Kamış and journalists like him…

*ilker Dogan is a journalist and a political commentator at TR724.com

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