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
Jailed journalist Erdal says her biggest need is for justice and freedom
Hanım Büşra Erdal, one of dozens of journalists who were arrested because they used to work for Turkish media outlets affiliated with the Gülen movement, has said from jail that her biggest need is for justice and freedom.
Erdal used to work for the Zaman and Yeni Hayat dailies, both of which were closed down by the Turkish government due to their links to the Gülen movement.
The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
The journalist was detained at her family home in the western Turkish province of Manisa on July 26, 2016 and was subsequently arrested on July 29, 2016.
A high criminal court in İstanbul in March 8 concluded the trial of Erdal and dozens of other journalists and handed down a jail sentence of six years, three months to her on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.
Erdal, who is incarcerated in İstanbul’s Bakırköy Prison, in July responded to a questionnaire prepared by the P24 Independent Journalism Platform during a visit by the P24 lawyers.
The questionnaire aims at revealing the circumstances and the problems faced by jailed journalists in prison and making a contribution to their solution.
In response to a final question in the questionnaire asking the journalist to talk about her needs in prison in addition to what she answered in the previous questions, Erdal said, “My biggest need is for justice and freedom.”
To a question asking whether she was subjected to any form of maltreatment either during detention or in jail, Erdal said she had to undergo a strip search when she was arrested.
Regarding problems in prison life, Erdal said meals are cooked with poor-quality oil, there is limited access to cleaning supplies and she can’t always easily see the prison doctor and get medication.
The journalist said a ban on sending and receiving letters for her was removed a year ago and that she is allowed to have five books and the newspapers she wants to read, but said she was unable to get some newspapers at the beginning of her jail life.
To a question asking about whether she has even been visited by a member of the Turkish Parliament, Erdal said she was visited by Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies Sezgin Tanrıkulu, Utku Çakırözer and Mahmut Tanal when she was first arrested and then by another CHP deputy, Atilla Sertel.
Zaman, which was Turkey’s best-selling newspaper, was taken over by the government in March 2016 and then closed down in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt. Zaman angered the government with its critical stance and extensive coverage of a corruption scandal that erupted in late 2013. The Yeni Hayat daily was established by a group of former Zaman journalists after the newspaper’s takeover by the government. Source
Police on July 26, 2016, detained Hanım Büşra Erdal, the then-35-year-old columnist and court reporter for the shuttered daily newspaper Zaman, at her family's home in the western Turkish province of Manisa, Turkey's state-run Anadolu News Agency reported.
She was subsequently transferred to Istanbul to be investigated as part of a broad purge of suspected followers of 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 of masterminding a July 15, 2016, failed military coup.
Istanbul's First Court of Penal Peace on July 29, 2016, ordered the journalist jailed pending trial on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, in large part based on her long employment at Zaman, according to the arraignment, which CPJ has reviewed. 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 on the grounds that the court considered it a FETÖ/PDY mouthpiece. The government used emergency powers assumed after the failed July 15, 2016, military coup to order the newspaper closed by decree on July 27, 2016.
According to the arraignment, the state alleged that Erdal was detained as she was destroying evidence against her, an allegation that her lawyer, Ümit Kardaş, disputed in his appeal of the order to jail Erdal pending trial, which CPJ has also reviewed. According to Turkish law, any suspicion of tampering with evidence or preventing evidence from being collected during an investigation can be used to justify pretrial detention.
Kardaş said in the appeal that the allegation of destroying evidence was "imaginary." He said Erdal had wanted to turn herself in to police as soon as she learned from the press that she was wanted, but that police told her not to move, and that they would come for her at her family's home.
Erdal's lawyer wrote in the appeal that police did not search the journalist's family's house, but instead searched her apartment in Istanbul, and found books by Gülen.
Prosecutors asked Erdal about a July 12, 2016, opinion article she wrote, headlined "Are you aware of danger?" in the newspaper Yeni Hayat, which former Zaman journalists launched after a court placed Zaman's parent company under trusteeship. Prosecutors also asked her about the books by Gülen that police found in her apartment, and about her activity on Twitter. Prosecutors also asked her whether she knew Hidayet Karaca, the jailed head of Samanyolu Broadcasting Group.
Erdal is on trial with several co-accused. 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 Erdal’s case, prosecutors cited as evidence her articles at Zaman and Yeni Hayat and her social media activity.
When the trial started in March 2017, an Istanbul court ordered Erdal 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.
Erdal was at Bakırköy Prison for Women in Istanbul, her lawyer, Ümit Kardaş, told CPJ in September 2017. Kardaş said that the court order that blocked his client's release was dated April 3, two days after Erdal was prevented from leaving the prison. Kardaş said he planned to appeal to the Constitutional Court about the procedural violation. He said that Erdal has low morale and that after she was detained again, she lost her hope in the law. *
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