|Ahmed Sik, jailed Turkish journalist and author of "Imam Ordusu" (Imam's Army)|
Mr. Sik has been in jail since March and it wasn’t until September that the charges against him — aiding an alleged terrorist organization known as Ergenekon, that aimed to overthrow the government — were made public. His trial is expected to begin later this month. The book is being used in evidence against him.
Mr. Sik’s case and that of fellow journalist Nedim Sener, who was arrested at the same time, have become lightning rods for critics of the government’s record on freedom of expression. The European Union and the U.S. also have criticized the arrests.
The book was co-signed by 124 journalists and others, who revised and edited it for release at Istanbul’s TUYAP book fair Wednesday.
The book argues that the Turkish police force has become increasingly controlled by a religious Muslim movement led from the U.S. by Turkish Imam-businessman, Fethullah Gulen. Many Turks see the Gulen movement, which is known mainly for building and running schools in Turkey and around the world, including in the U.S., as a moderate and modernizing Islamic force.
But opponents say the movement has a hidden Islamist agenda. They say that since the Islamic-leaning Justice and Development Party, or AKP, came to power in 2002, the Gulen movement has become increasingly powerful, replacing the militarist so-called deep state that the Ergenekon case is designed to uncover, with a new Islamist one that also abuses the courts.
Mr. Sik’s book, a draft of which was widely downloaded from the internet after his arrest, is no smoking gun against the Gulen movement. But Mr. Sik’s supporters note his own long record of investigative journalism against the old deep state and believe he is being prosecuted and punished for doing his job as a journalist.
His book was renamed by his co-signatories “000KITAP – Dokunan Yanar” (000BOOK – Who Touches, Will Burn), referring to what he said on the day of his arrest. “Those who touch [Gulen’s movement] will burn,” Mr. Sik said to TV cameras and onlookers, as he was shoved in a police car in front of his house in early March, over eight months ago.
“We shall retain our patience, strengthen our perseverance, keep our determination and continue our protest until our friends, Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener are given back their freedom,” journalist Ismail Saymaz, who has also had his share of trials for his journalistic work, read in a press statement at the book fair. “In other words, “Even if we burn, we’ll touch!”
Mr. Sener also is charged with helping Ergenekon. He had been inspecting the shortcomings in the ongoing murder trial of a Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor, Hrant Dink, who was shot dead by an ultranationalist in front of his office in Istanbul in 2007.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that around two dozen journalists are in Turkish jails and none in connection with their journalistic work. Many of the jailed journalists are Kurds, accused of spreading propaganda for the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization in Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union. Human rights groups in Turkey and abroad disagree with Mr. Erdogan. They say the number of jailed journalists is above 50 and that they were punished for their work.