Prison Sentences of Journalists Aksoy, Taş Upheld
The sentences of prison, which were previously given to 26 people, including journalists Murat Aksoy and Atilla Taş, who were released in October 2017, on charges of "being members of an armed terrorist organization" and "attempting to stage a coup", have been upheld.
The 2nd Penal Chamber of the İstanbul Regional Court of Justice (BAM) announced its verdict, where it had evaluated the requests for appeal, on October 22. The court ruled that the arrest of imprisoned defendants shall continue and rejected their requests for appeal with prejudice.
The prison sentences previously given to journalists Atilla Taş and Murat Aksoy have become definitive since that they are less than five years.
The 2nd Penal Chamber of the İstanbul Regional Court of Justice (BAM) rejected the requests for appeal raised by defendants including Abdullah Kılıç, Ahmet Memiş, Ali Akkuş, Bayram Kaya, Bünyamin Köseli, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Cihan Acar, Cuma Ulus, Davut Aydın, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Habip Güler, Halil İbrahim Balta, Hanım Büşra Erdal, Hüseyin Aydın, Muhammet Sait Kuloğlu, Mustafa Erkan Acar, Mutlu Çölgeçen, Oğuz Usluer and Ünal Tanık.
The court also ruled for the continuation of their arrest.
The court board of the İstanbul 25th Heavy Penal Court had previously ruled that the files of fugitive defendants Bülent Ceyhan and Said Sefa shall be separated since the arrest warrants issued against them had not been executed. The board also ruled that Muhterem Tanık shall be acquitted of the charge of "being a member of an armed terrorist organization".
In the verdict of the İstanbul Regional Court of Justice, it was stated that the evidence in the case file was sound and sufficient for conviction and the ruling of the local court complied with the law.
As part of this lawsuit, journalists were arrested again shortly after a verdict of release was issued for them.
On August 30, 2016, İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's office issued a detention order for 35 people, including several academics and journalists, as part of the investigation against FETÖ following the coup attempt on July 15. 27 of the 35 detainees were later arrested.
The state-run Anadolu News Agency reported on the detention order for the journalists and writers with the headline "Operation against the media organization of FETÖ".
In the trial which was called "Media Organization" as part of the "Fethullahist Terrorist Organization/ Parallel State Organization/ FETÖ", 29 people were put on trial on charges of "being members of an armed terrorist organization" and "attempting to stage a coup".
A lawsuit was filed against the journalists on the stated charges at İstanbul 25th Heavy Penal Court, which gave its verdict on October 24, 2017.
As per the verdict of the court, 23 defendants were sentenced to 6years and three months to seven years and six months in prison on charge of "being members of an armed terrorist organization".
Facing the charge of "aiding an armed terrorist organization", defendant Atilla Taş was sentenced to 3 years, 1 month and 15 days in prison while Murat Aksoy was sentenced to 2 years and 1 month in prison. (EMK/SD) Source
........... “I never been accused of anything during my life, none of my reports were dismissed. There is no evidence [showing a criminal conduct] against me,” former Zaman political reporter Habib Guler told judges.
He rejected charges against him over sharing 4 tweets about National Intelligence Organization’s (MIT) arms shipment to Syria with MIT-owned trucks several years ago. What jarred him most was the fact that the court did not reveal the 4 tweets which were the basis of accusations against him. He said there was a government block on his Twitter account and he was not provided the content of 4 tweets.
He insisted that there was no criminal content on his tweets, no insult or threat. He posted tweets within the scope of freedom of expression, he elaborated.
According to the record of Balta's arraignment hearing, which CPJ has reviewed, Balta denied the accusation, saying that he had no ties to the Gülenist movement, and that he had turned himself in to police upon learning there was a warrant for his arrest.
According to the court document, prosecutors questioned Balta about his work for Zaman.Balta said he worked for the newspaper for 23 years, but moved to Yarına Bakış after a court in March 2016 ordered the government to appoint trustees to manage Feza Media Group, which published Zaman, saying the company had links to the Gülenist network. The government then used emergency powers it assumed after the failed coup attempt to order the newspaper closed by decree on July 27, 2016.
Prosecutors also asked the journalist about his activity on Twitter, the court documents recorded, without indicating what, if any, specific social media activity concerned the prosecutors. Balta replied that he had no intent to disseminate propaganda for a banned organization and that he had practiced only journalism at Zaman.
The court ordered Balta jailed pending trial on the basis that his employment at Zaman and Yarına Bakış was sufficient evidence for a "reasonable suspicion" that he "willingly and knowingly aided" FETÖ/PDY, according to the record of the hearing.
Balta is one of 17 co-accused on trial together. In the original indictment, all but one were charged with “being a member of an armed [terrorist] organization,” which carries up to 10 years in prison, according to news reports. The indictment accused the defendants of manipulating public perception of FETÖ to turn people against the government, which, prosecutors argued, made them members of the group.
CPJ found the indictment to be similar to those presented at trials of other journalists in Turkey. Prosecutors cited as evidence journalistic activity or acts of free speech and communication, or cited circumstantial evidence such as being employed by a certain media outlet or having an account at a bank allegedly linked to Gülenists.
In Balta’s case, prosecutors cited as evidence his social media activity, his account at Bank Asya, which the government alleges is a Gülenist institution, and pro-Gülenists books found in his home.
When the trial started in March 2017, an Istanbul court ordered Balta and several of the other journalists to be released while the case was heard, according to news reports. Prosecutors successfully appealed the decision, and authorities ordered an investigation into the judges who had ordered the release and they were relieved of duty, according to the reports.
Balta was in Silivri Prison, Istanbul.*
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