Appellate court upholds verdict in “Zaman trial”
The trial court had convicted columnists Ahmet Turan Alkan, Ali Bulaç, Şahin Alpay, Mümtazer Türköne, Mustafa Ünal and editor İbrahim Karayeğen of “membership in a terrorist group” in July 2018
An appellate court has upheld the verdict rendered last year in the “Zaman trial,” where 11 former columnists and editors of the shuttered newspaper were accused of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” and “membership in a terrorist group.”
The 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice upheld the trial court’s verdict on 25 June 2019. The prosecutor has appealed against the appellate court’s ruling at the Supreme Court of Appeals.
The trial court had convicted six of the defendants in the case on 6 July 2018, while acquitting five journalists of all charges.
Columnists Ahmet Turan Alkan, Ali Bulaç, Şahin Alpay, Mümtazer Türköne, Zaman’s Ankara representative Mustafa Ünal and the newspaper’s night shift editor İbrahim Karayeğen were convicted of “membership in a terrorist group” and each given prison terms between 8 years and 9 months and 10.5 years. Columnists Lale Sarıibrahimoğlu, Nuriye Ural, İhsan Dağı, editor Mehmet Özdemir and lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz were acquitted of all charges.
Türköne and Ünal were each sentenced to 10 years and six months in prison and ordered to remain behind bars pending the appeal process.
The trial, which got under way in April 2017, was based on an indictment into 30 people initially. The investigation targeted journalists, columnists and other press members from media outlets linked with the religious network led by US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen. The Turkish government lists the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization and accuses its members of orchestrating the failed coup attempt of 15 July 2016.
Five acquitted in Zaman trial, two journos released from jail
Court convicts 6 journalists of “FETÖ membership” while acquitting all 11 defendants of the “coup” charge in the indictment
The verdicts have been announced in another of the high profile trials of press workers in Turkey, the world's leading jailer of journalists.
None of the defendants in the case of Turkey’s Zaman newspaper were convicted of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, a charge which would have seen them awarded life sentences, according to Article 19 Europe.
Five defendants were completely acquitted, while the other journalists were given terror charges.
Zaman newspaper was a media outlet linked to the Fethullah Gülen movement, a group that stands accused of undertaking a failed July 2016 coup attempt. In this trial, many of its journalists were accused of foreknowledge or preparing the ground for the coup attempt. Gülen denies charges. ........................
..............Journalists Şahin Alpay and Ali Bulaç were each given 8 years and 9 months’ prison for “membership of a terrorist organisation” but will remain free until the appeals process is complete, journalism platform P24 said .
Ahmet Turan Alkan was also given 8 years and 9 months each, while İbrahim Karayeğen was given 9 years and Mümtazer Türköne and Mustafa Ünal were given 10 years and 6 months on the same charges.
"In this trial, the prosecution's wishful thinking has turned into an indictment," said Alkan's lawyer, Faruk Zorba, during the trial. "The only correct information in the indictment is that the client wrote for Zaman newspaper. Writing for Zaman does not constitute membership of a terrorist organisation," he said.
9 June 2018:
............Columnist Ali Bulaç addressed the court next. Noting that Zaman had been a legitimate media outlet until the day it was closed down, Bulaç said he could neither be accused for having worked there as a columnist, nor for the escape of the newspaper’s editor in chief.
8 June 2018
13 Auguste 2014:
Ali Bulaç, a former columnist for the shuttered daily newspaper Zaman, turned himself in to police on July 27, 2016, when he learned from the press that there was a warrant for his arrest, he told Istanbul's Fourth Court of Penal Peace at his July 30, 2016, arraignment hearing.
The court arraigned him and codefendants and fellow former Zaman journalists Şahin Alpay, Ahmet Turan Alkan, and Mustafa Ünal on charges of being members of a terrorist organization. They were accused of following exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government accuses of maintaining a terrorist organization and "parallel state structure" (FETÖ/PDY, by its Turkish acronym) and masterminding a failed military coup on July 15, 2016.
According to records of the arraignment hearing, which CPJ has reviewed, the state alleged that Bulaç, Alpay, Alkan, and Ünal wrote articles in Zaman praising FETÖ/PDY and that the newspaper was the group's media organ.
The state further alleged that because Bulaç and the other Zaman columnists continued writing for the newspaper after its editor-in-chief, Ekrem Dumanlı, was charged in absentia of being "a member of an armed terrorist organization," they remained involved even though they knew the group included armed elements, according to court records.
According to the court records, the state also alleged that Bulaç, Alpay, Alkan, and Ünal praised Gülenists on social media, despite what the state described as "strong discourse and public information" that an armed uprising would take place.
An Istanbul court in March 2016 ordered the Feza Media Group, which owned Zaman and several other media outlets, placed under trustees appointed by the government. The government used emergency powers arrogated after the failed July 15 military coup to order the newspaper closed by decree on July 27, 2016.
The court judged Bulaç, Alpay, Alkan, and Ünal to be flight risks and ordered them jailed pending trial. Many people have fled in the wake of the government crackdown on suspected Gülenists.
The court did not specify the accusations against the individual journalists but judged their cases collectively, court documents show.
Bulaç is on trial alongside 30 journalists and media workers, and an academic. All are charged with “attempting, through violence and force, to disrupt and replace the order as recognized by Turkey’s Constitution,” “attempting through violence and force to eliminate or prevent Parliament from carrying out its duties,” and “being a member of an armed terrorist organization.” Not all of the defendants are in custody.
The trial’s first hearing began in Istanbul on September 18, 2017, according to local reports.
In the indictment, reviewed by CPJ, the prosecution said that the defendants’ journalism-- including opinion pieces or their employment by pro-Gülen outlets such as the daily Zaman and Cihan News Agency--is evidence that the journalists were part of the so-called Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure (FETÖ/PDY).
The indictment accused the journalists—which it referred to as “the media force of the terrorist organization”—of producing false news to weaken the government, insult or humiliate the authorities, attempt to disrupt the peace, and to create an environment suitable for a coup.
Bulaç denies the charges, according to the indictment. If convicted, he faces multiple life sentences without parole.
The next court date is scheduled for December 8, 2017, according to press reports.
Bulaç, who was 66 at the time of his arrest, told the court that he had had heart bypass surgery and suffers from high blood pressure, diabetes, and enlarged thyroid, the court records indicate.
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