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
According to records of his arraignment hearing, which CPJ has reviewed, when asked about his work for Millet, the journalist told the court that he had worked as a journalist since 1994 at various newspapers and television channels before joining Millet in September 2014 as the news coordinator. He told the court he quit the newspaper on August 21, 2015, following an argument he had with a colleague, and that he had been unemployed since.
The journalist denied that he was a follower of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government accuses of maintaining a terrorist organization and "parallel state structure" in Turkey (FETÖ/PDY, by its Turkish acronym) and of masterminding a July 15, 2016, failed military coup. Çölgeçen denied having any connection to the failed military coup.
The court ordered him jailed based on its "strong suspicion" that Çölgeçen "willingly and knowingly helped the organization.”
Millet was one of several media outlets owned by the Koza İpek Group, which the government took over in October 2015, alleging it had links to FETÖ/PDY. Trustees appointed by the government hollowed out media outlets the company owned and shut them down in March 2016, saying they were not financially viable.
Çölgeçen is on trial with several other journalists arrested after the attempted coup. All but one of them were charged with “being a member of an armed [terrorist] organization,” which carries up to 10 years in prison, according to the indictment.
CPJ found the indictment to be similar to those presented at trials of other journalists in Turkey. Prosecutors cited as evidence in these cases 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 Gulenists.
The indictment accused the defendants of manipulating the public perception of FETÖ to turn citizens against the government, which prosecutors argued made them members of the group that Turkey alleges is behind the attempted coup.
Prosecutors presented as evidence against Çölgeçen his employment at Millet, his appearance as a guest on a TV debate on alleged government corruption, and his social media activity. Prosecutors accused Çölgeçen of producing false news about prominent cases--including the alleged Ergenekon and Sledgehammer plots to destabilize the government--while he was working at pro-government media outlets, including the daily Sabah. At that time those cases were reported, the Gülenists and the government were allies.
When the trial started in March 2017, an Istanbul court ordered Çölgeçen and four of his co-accused to be detained for the duration of the trial, according to news reports.
Çölgeçen was being held in Silviri prison in Istanbul.*
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