The new Turkey
Emin Çölaşan.
Daily Sözcü columnist

22-Mar-2019 9:52

15 March 2019:

The trial into the executives and employees of Sözcü newspaper on terrorism-related charges resumed 

The trial into the executives and employees of Sözcü newspaper on terrorism-related charges resumed on 15 March at the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

A recent indictment that accuses Sözcü columnists Emin Çölaşan and Necati Doğru, the newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief Metin Yılmaz, website news coordinator Yücel Arı and website editor Mustafa Çetin of “aiding the terrorist organization ‘FETÖ’ without being part of its hierarchical structure” was merged in January  with the ongoing case into the daily’s former website news director Mediha Olgun, Financial Affairs Manager Yonca Yücekaleli, Izmir correspondent Gökmen Ulu and former publisher Burak Akbay on the charges of “leading an armed terror organization,” “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “aiding FETÖ while not being its members.” An arrest warrant is still in place for Akbay, who is abroad.

This was the first courtroom hearing in the case after the two files were merged.

P24 monitored the hearing, where Metin Yılmaz, Mustafa Çetin, Necati Doğru, Yücel Arı, Gökmen Ulu, Mediha Olgun and Yonca Yücekaleli were in attendance, as well as defense lawyers. Emin Çölaşan addressed the court via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS from Ankara.

At the end of the previous hearing, the court had ruled to hand over the case file to the prosecutor for the final opinion to be prepared. The prosecution requested additional time for their final opinion because of the vast extent of the file.

The defendants then told the court that they would not make any statements at this point. Mediha Olgun asked to be acquitted.

Defense lawyers requested that the court ask for a new expert opinion, which the court rejected. The lawyers also requested the expansion of the investigation and said the submission of the final opinion without the completion of the case file would lead to violations of the right to defense and the right to a fair trial.

Burak Akbay’s lawyer requested the lifting of the arrest warrant against her client.

The prosecution requested that the court reject all requests and the continuation of the arrest warrant for Akbay.

Issuing its interim ruling following a brief recess, the court rejected the defense lawyers’ requests. The court agreed to grant additional time to the prosecution for their final opinion and adjourned the trial until 18 April.



18 January 2019:

Turkish court delays trial of dissident Sözcü journalists

The trial of two writers and three editors at a Turkish critical newspaper has been delayed after the court overseeing the case decided to combine it with the trial of the newspaper’s owner and three others.

Veteran journalist and columnist Emin Çölaşan, columnist Necati Doğru, editor-in-chief Metin Yılmaz, internet editor Mustafa Çetin, and internet news coordinator Yücel Arı of the left-wing daily Sözcü were accused in December of links to the Gülen religious movement, which the Turkish government blames for organising a coup attempt against it in July 2016.

Thousands of Turks, including many journalists, have been purged or tried in the aftermath of the coup attempt after being accused of links to the Gülen movement. However, the accusations against the writers at Sözcü provoked particularly outcry since they and the newspaper had for years criticised the movement and its leader, Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen.

Sözcü’s criticisms of the Gülenists stretch back to a time when the group was known to be close to the Turkish government, a fact that Arı noted in his defence statements.

Çetin speculated that the case had been launched against them on account of Çölaşan, and Doğru’s columns, which have often been highly critical of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

He added that the indictment against them touched on the newspaper’s reports on the social media account run under the name “Fuat Avni,” a whistleblower account that posted supposed insider information about the Turkish government for years starting in 2014. The identity of the account is still unknown, though many believe it to be linked to the Gülen movement.

Reporting on the Avni account in 2014 and 2015 was natural for a news site, said Çetin, since at that point the account had become a “phenomenon” due to several of its claims proving true.

The court has asked for the case files against Sözcü owner Burak Akbay, Mediha Olgun, Bekir Gökmen Ulu and Yonca Yücekaleli to be added to the indictment.

Akbay faces up to 30 years in prison, having been charged with “leading an armed terrorist organisation” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation.” The other three face lesser terror charges which carry a prison sentence of between seven-and-a-half and 15 years.



Court rules to merge two trials against Sözcü daily

A new court case in which five journalists from the daily Sözcü, including columnists Emin Çölaşan and Necati Doğru, are accused of “aiding the terrorist organization ‘FETÖ’ without being part of its hierarchical structure” got under way on 18 January at the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The other defendants in the case are the newspaper’s chief editor Metin Yılmaz, website news coordinator Yücel Arı and website editor Mustafa Çetin.
The court, which also oversees the ongoing trial into three other Sözcü employees and the newspaper’s former publisher, Burak Akbay, ruled at the end of the first hearing to merge the two case files and hand over both files to the prosecution for their final opinion of the case to be drafted.

The next hearing in the merged case is set for 12 March 2019.


10 December 2018:

Turkey seeks 15-year prison terms for staff at opposition newspaper Sözcü  

Turkish prosecutors are seeking maximum 15-year prison terms for five leading journalists at secularist opposition daily Sözcü for aiding the Gülen movement, which Ankara accuses of masterminding the July 2016 coup attempt and designates a terror organisation, pro-government Sabah daily reported

Veteran journalist and columnist Emin Çölaşan, columnist Necati Doğru, editor-in-chief Metin Yılmaz and internet editor Mustafa Çetin of Sözcü newspaper are accused of aiding the Gülen movement, a religious group accused by Ankara of infiltrating state institutions to topple the government , Sabah said.

The five are set to stand trial in Istanbul on Jan. 18.

The cases against the Sözcü staff follow a previous trial which began in 2017 against the daily’s staff for aiding the Gülen movement. Sözcu video journalist Mediha Olgun and Gokmen Ulu were released following months of detention over terror links, while the newspaper’s founder Burak Akbay, who has left the country, stands accused of being a leader of a terrorist organisation.