December 24, 2014

Dumanlı: Am I being blamed for 2 columns, report? Judge: Yes

The editor-in-chief of Turkey's best-selling Zaman daily, who was briefly detained last week, can be heard laughing off what he calls “ridiculous” allegations against him in newly leaked footage and he even tells his attorneys that he is ready to defend himself if he is accused of wrongdoing regarding two columns and one news report.

In a two-minute video from his court hearing at the 1st İstanbul Penal Court of Peace on Dec. 18, Dumanlı can be seen with three of his lawyers standing before Judge Bekir Altun.

"Am I being blamed for only two columns, written by Hüseyin Gülerce and Ahmet Şahin, and a news report?" Dumanlı asks in a surprising tone. Altun responds by saying, "Yes, this is why you stand accused.”

Dumanlı is accused of being part of a gang that conspired against an al-Qaeda-linked group called Tahşiye by "ordering" two columnists to write about it and by also publishing a news report of a speech made by Turkish-Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

The Zaman editor then can be heard asking his attorneys to "calm down" because he is ready to explain the situation. The footage doesn't show the main portion of Dumanlı's defense, which largely consists of Dumanlı and his lawyers "trying to fathom" the allegations.

"Two columnists wrote two articles. There is also a news report about Fethullah Gülen's speech from that anyone can access from around the world. It was published on page three of the newspaper. Is there anything else? No. Then let me defend myself. What kind of a thing is this that I am [a member of] an armed terrorist organization that does not exist?" Dumanlı asked.

The Zaman editor-in-chief said he would like to let the record show that this is "very strong slander."

Dumanlı's defense came three days after the newspaper was raided by police, who detained the editor-in-chief amid a chanting crowd of his colleagues. The detention invited worldwide condemnation while press advocacy bodies slammed the move as another attempt by Turkish authorities to clamp down on media critical of the government.

While lawyers quizzed the prosecutors about the allegations, Dumanlı interrupted one of his lawyers, explaining how the prosecutor had "constructed a gang."

"The claim is that after these columns [were published], a chain of reactions took place," Dumanlı said.

Soon after the operation was launched on Dec. 14, the pro-government media published stories and graphs, explaining how the "gang" put an "innocent man" in jail for 17 months. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claimed the man was behind bars for 17 years.

Dumanlı, along with other journalists and scriptwriters, is accused of publishing and broadcasting news reports and soap operas against Tahşiye soon after Gülen made a speech in 2009, in which the scholar warned against a group that "might" be called Tahşiye and linked to al-Qaeda.

Tahşiye group leader Mehmet Doğan, who was detained and later released pending trial, acknowledged in an interview with CNNTürk last week that he "loves Osama bin Laden."

Following Gülen's speech, the allegations say that Dumanlı ordered his two columnists to write about the Tahşiye group and that he published a news report about Gülen's speech. Then the Samanyolu TV network, another Hizmet-affiliated media organization, made implications about the group in an episode of a soap opera on its channel. It is further claimed that the police then “unfairly” raided the group.

Published on Today's Zaman, 24 December 2014, Wednesday