Turkey announced on Tuesday that the former editor-in-chief of a major newspaper was charged with “attempting a coup” in September and is currently in violation of his arrest warrant.
Ekrem Dumanlı, former editor-in-chief of the newspaper Zaman, says this is the first he has heard of the arrest warrant and neither he nor his lawyers have been approached by the government in any way.
Hurriyet reports that Dumanlı, who stepped down from the editor-in-chief position last month, is allegedly wanted for “attempting a coup” and “forming an organization with felonious intent,” which are charges of terrorism in Turkey. His crime, the newspaper explains, was running a publication that appeared favorable to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, considered the nation’s most wanted man under the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) announced that an in-absentia terrorism trial would begin shortly against Gulen in October.
Gulen has also faced trouble with the law in the United States, as the FBI raided a number of charter schools across the country run by his organization.
Dumanlı is accused of both promoting Gulen through the Zaman newspaper and “deliver[ing] instructions from U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen to members of the alleged ‘Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ)/Parallel State Structure (PDY).'”
After fourteen years of running Zaman, Dumanlı resigned on October 6, citing “unlawful pressure on press and my personality.” Since then, Hurriyet notes, he has not been seen in public or used his cell phone, according to records. He also did not vote in the November 1 parliamentary elections. The warrant had been issued on September 18, however, and he was known to go about his work freely until his resignation. No evidence that the government had issued an arrest warrant for him had surfaced at the time.
Dumanlı took to Twitter on Tuesday to defend himself. “Pro-government media has reported that I have been wanted for 50 days. Why do I and my lawyers have no knowledge about that if I have sought for this long?” he asked, adding that he sees “no goodwill” in the investigation against him.
His attorneys have also told Zaman that the government has yet to approach them. “If the prosecutor’s office needed Dumanlı’s testimony on something, they should have done it in normal way and summoned our client for testimony over the past 50 days,” they said.
While retired from running the newspaper, Dumanlı still writes for Zaman, publishing an opinion piece on Tuesday, the same day the government declared him a fugitive. The column concerned the hostile physical takeover of the Koza Ipek media organization, which includes two newspapers and two television stations. Police officers stormed the conglomerate’s building and demanded the two television broadcasts shut down while mayhem between police and supporters of the outlet broke out in front of their offices.
Dumanlı writes that what happened to Koza Ipek, which has also been accused of having ties to Gulen, cannot become a pattern:
If a trustee is assigned to the Cumhuriyet, Zaman, Taraf or Sözcü dailies, or Samanyolu TV or other companies which exclusively deal in media activities, this is a clear breach of the Constitution. If any intervention is made into media companies which are not part of any holding and which conduct solely media activities, this will mean the cancellation of the entire legal system and at the same time, suicide for the judicial and security bureaucracy.
Dumanlı adds that he finds the government’s “only refuge” to be “accus[ing] media outlets of being terrorist organizations.”
A number of Turkish outlets have reported that the government has set up a special police team to find and arrest Dumanlı, and that he is facing “aggravated life imprisonment” and 22.5 years in prison.
Dumanlı was arrested in December 2014, along with a number of other Zaman editors, and has been prohibited from legally leaving the country since.