Tuncay Özkan

SilivriKanaltürk and Kanal BizTV channelownerSeptember 23 2008Özkan, former owner of Kanal Biz and Kanaltürk television stations and a former leader of the New Party, or Yeni Parti, was being held at Silivri F Type Prison in Istanbul on charges of being involved in Ergenekon, an alleged underground network of ultranationalist, secular military officers and civil servants plotting to overthrow the government. He faced two life sentences without the possibility of parole, along with another sentence of up to 30 years. Özkan has been a journalist since 1981, working in both print and television as an investigative reporter, columnist, and manager. He is also the author of 17 books on politics, security issues, and his own imprisonment. In comments sent to CPJ through his lawyer, Özkan said he was being persecuted for his journalistic and political activities. “I have been targeted because I was breaking news on the corruption of the prime minister and ministers, opposing the leading administration, and taking activist positions,” Özkan told CPJ. He said he’d been held in isolation for more than a year. In 2007, Özkan organized a multimedia campaign opposing the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and helped launch a series of anti-government demonstrations known as “Republic Rallies” in Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir, and other cities. The rallies, which drew hundreds of thousands, portrayed the AKP as a threat to secular governance and the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Some speakers made explicit or veiled calls for military intervention; such sentiments were seen on banners as well. Among the co-organizers of the rallies was a retired general named Şener Eruygur, then head of a Kemalist association, who was implicated in the Ergenekon plot. Özkan also founded the Yeni Party and was elected its first leader in June 2008. Özkan told CPJ that the government’s accusations were unsubstantiated. He said he asked the government to specify the evidence against him, but authorities were unresponsive. At the request of his defense lawyers, the European Court of Human Rights agreed in February 2012 to hear his complaint about an unduly long detention without verdict. The government’s indictment accused Özkan of meeting with alleged Ergenekon conspirators, including politicians and high-level military officials, with the goal of using his media properties to sow chaotic conditions conducive to a military coup. As evidence, the government cited a CD seized from the retired general Eruygur, which portrays Özkan as part of the “ultranationalist media” and Özkan’s wiretapped phone conversations, including ones related to the opposition “Republic Rallies.” Özkan said the meetings and conversations were part of his journalistic activities. Authorities said they also seized grenades, guns, and ammunition from a warehouse that also housed some of Özkan’s belongings. Özkan said the warehouse was rented by Kanaltürk colleagues while the station’s offices were being moved. He said he had no involvement in the warehouse. Özkan said he was forced to sell Kanaltürk because advertisers faced political pressure to drop their business with the station. His other station went out of business after his arrest.being involved in Ergenekonbeing involved in Ergenekon