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
Journalists Abdullah Kılıç, Cihan Acar, Bünyamin Köseli, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Halil İbrahim Balta, Bayram Kaya, Habip Güler, Hanım Büşra Erdal, Yakup Çetin, Hüseyin Aydın and Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu were given six years, three months on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.
The charge was based on the suspicion that he is 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.
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, saying the newspaper was a FETÖ/PDY mouthpiece. The government used emergency powers arrogated after the failed July 15, 2016, military coup to order the newspaper closed by decree on July 27, 2016.
According to court records seen by CPJ, the state alleged that the then 38-year-old Güler's work at Zaman was evidence of his membership in the group. The state also alleged that police caught Güler as he was destroying evidence, one of the conditions under which a suspect can be ordered jailed pending trial according to Turkish law.
Güler told the court that prosecutors asked him about his activity on Twitter. The court specifically asked him about one post he published on the social media website on October 13, 2014. The court document did not include the content of the tweet, and the tweet has apparently been deleted since, but Güler told the court, "I tweeted that, but I did not fully understand the [Gülenist network] back then. I behaved emotionally."
When asked if he wanted to help authorities crack down on FETÖ/PDY in exchange for leniency, Güler said he was only a parliamentary reporter and that the "[people] really responsible escaped abroad," according to the court's order to jail him pending trial.
Güler 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 Güler’s case, prosecutors cited as evidence his employment by Zaman, his social media activism and his account with Bank Asya, which the government accused of being a Gülenist institution.
When the trial started in March 2017, an Istanbul court ordered Güler 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.
Güler was being detained in Silivri Prison, Istanbul.
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