Vahit Yazgan, the former bureau chief of the shuttered Zaman daily in Turkey’s western province of İzmir, was sentenced to eight years, nine months in prison on Wednesday based on an anonymous letter alleging that he was a member of a “terrorist organization.”
The last hearing of Yazgan, a 48-year-old veteran journalist, was held at İzmir’s 4th High Criminal Court. The prosecutor presented as “evidence” Yazgan’s continuing to work for Zaman following a corruption scandal that implicated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his family members and Cabinet ministers when he was still prime minister, on Dec. 17-25, 2013, and money deposited into Yazgan’s account at private lender Bank Asya, which was closed by government decree over its affiliation with the Gülen movement.
Yazgan defended himself before the court, saying that he is a professional journalist, and demanded his acquittal. However, the court sentenced Yazgan to 10 years, six months in prison over alleged membership in a terrorist organization. The court later reduced the sentence to eight years, nine months based on his apparent remorse. The court also ruled for the continuation of Yazgan’s imprisonment.
Yazgan has been held in prison since he was detained in August 2016 together with a group of businessmen over their alleged links to the Gülen movement shortly after a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Yazgan was kept in detention for 18 days under abusive conditions, and the authorities failed to advise him of the charges against him and what evidence, if any, the government had.
On Aug. 26, 2016, he was formally arrested by an İzmir court on fabricated charges that he administered an armed terrorist organization and was put in Buca Kırıklar Prison. The indictment drafted by the public prosecutor months later revealed that an anonymous letter claiming without any evidence that he was a member of a terror organization led to his detention and arrest.