Mümtazer Türköne’s application rejected by top court
Constitutional Court rules former Zaman columnist Türköne’s rights to liberty and security and freedom of expression not violated
The Constitutional Court’s Second Section ruled that jailed former academic and Zaman columnist Mümtazer Türköne’s detention since August 2016 was not in violation of his right to liberty and security and his rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
The top court’s judgment concerning Türköne’s application was published in the Official Gazette on 10 January 2020.
Türköne was arrested in July 2016 as part of a series of raids targeting former columnists and journalists from the shuttered Zaman newspaper. He was jailed pending trial on 4 August 2016 on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organization.” At the end of the “Zaman trial,” which concluded in July 2018, the trial court convicted Türköne and five of his co-defendants of “membership of a terrorist group.” Türköne was sentenced to 10 years and 6 months in prison and ordered to remain behind bars pending the appeal process. He is currently imprisoned in the Silivri Prison in Istanbul.
Türköne’s individual application had been pending before the Constitutional Court since 28 March 2017. Ruling on Türköne’s application on 27 November 2019, the top court found Türköne’s claims that his detention was in violation of his right to liberty and security and his rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press to be “admissible.” However, the court unanimously held that Türköne’s rights were “not violated.”
The Constitutional Court found Türköne’s claim that his pre-trial detention exceeded reasonable time to be “inadmissible” on the grounds that “all legal remedies have not been exhausted.”
The court also found Türköne’s claims that access to his investigation file was restricted; that his right to effectively challenge the lawfulness of his detention and that his right to be presumed innocent were violated to be “inadmissible” on the grounds that all three claims were “manifestly ill-founded.”
Supreme court prosecutor submits opinion in Zaman trial
The Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals says lengthy prison sentences for four columnists should be upheld
The Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals submitted its opinion on trial of 11 former columnists and editors of Zaman newspaper, closed down under an emergency decree in 2016, on coup and terrorism charges.
The opinion, submitted on 23 December 2019 to the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals that will review the case, maintains that prison terms given to Zaman’s former columnists Ahmet Turan Alkan, Mümtazer Türköne, Mustafa Ünal and night editor İbrahim Karayeğen on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization” should be upheld. Convictions of columnists Şahin Alpay and Ali Bulaç, on the other hand, should be overturned as they should have been charged with “knowingly and willingly aiding the FETÖ/PDY terrorist organization without being part of its hierarchical structure,” the opinion says.
The prosecutor also asks the top court to uphold decisions for acquittal of former Zaman columnists Lale Sarıibrahimoğlu, Nuriye Ural, İhsan Dağı and Orhan Kemal Cengiz, while challenging the acquittal of news editor Mehmet Özdemir.
If the Supreme Court of Appeals rules along the lines of the prosecutor’s opinion, Ahmet Turan Alkan and İbrahim Karayeğen will need to return to prison to serve the remainder of their sentences.
The trial of 11 former columnists and editors of Zaman newspaper on charges of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order,” “membership of a terrorist organization,” “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization,” and “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” was concluded on 6 July 2018.
The trial court, the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court, ruled for the acquittal of columnists Lale Sarıibrahimoğlu, Nuriye Ural, İhsan Dağı, editor Mehmet Özdemir and lawyer and columnist Orhan Kemal Cengiz of all charges, while columnists Şahin Alpay, Ahmet Turan Alkan, İbrahim Karayeğen, Mümtazer Türköne, Mustafa Ünal and Ali Bulaç were convicted of “membership of a terrorist organization” and given prison terms varying between 8 years and 9 months to 10.5 years.
The court sentenced Mümtazer Türköne and Mustafa Ünal to 10.5 years each and ruled for their detention to continue pending appeal. İbrahim Karayeğen was sentenced to 9 years in prison on the same charge while Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç and Ahmet Turan Alkan were each given 8 years and 9 months. The court also ruled for the release of Alkan and Karayeğen, after nearly two years in pre-trial detention, pending the outcome of the appeal.
The Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court’s verdict was upheld by an appellate court on 25 June 2019, following which the case was taken to the Supreme Court of Appeals.
The trial of jailed academic and former Zaman columnist Mümtazer Türköne on the charge of “insulting a public official” resumed on 31 October 2019 at Istanbul’s Bakırköy 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. This was the seventh hearing in the case, where Türköne was accused for an article he penned on 16 March 2014 titled “Mecbur olmasa bu kadar kötü olur mu” (Would he be that evil if he didn’t have to?).
P24 monitored the hearing, where Türköne, who is currently imprisoned in the Silivri Prison, addressed the court via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS. Türköne’s lawyer Melike Polat and a lawyer representing Recep Tayyip Erdoğan were in attendance in the courtroom.
Türköne presented his final defense statement during the hearing and said the word “nekrofil” (necrophile) in his article was not intended as an insult. He asked the court to dismiss the case. Türköne’s lawyer Polat also reminded the court that another court had dismissed the case when it was first filed in 2014. Polat asked the court to acquit her client. Announcing her verdict at the end of the hearing, the judge fined Türköne TL 1,740 for his article.
11 September 2019:
This was the fifth hearing in the case, where Türköne is accused for an article he penned on 16 March 2014. Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court adjourned the trial until 15 October 2019 to allow time for Türköne to prepare his defense statement. A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
25 June 2019:
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.
7-8 June 2018 - Five journalists give final defense statements in fifth hearing of Zaman trial as court adjourns case until July
Eleven former columnists and editors of the shuttered Zaman daily on June 7 and 8 appeared before an Istanbul court for the fifth hearing of the case by the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. The journalists stand accused of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” and the terrorism-related charges of “membership in a terrorist group,” “conducting propaganda for a terrorist group” and “aiding a terrorist organization” in the case.
In its interim ruling at the end of the two-day hearing, the court ordered the continuation of the detention of four of the defendants — columnists Ahmet Turan Alkan, Mümtazer Türköne, editor İbrahim Karayeğen and Zaman’s former Ankara representative Mustafa Ünal. One of the judges on the panel gave a dissenting opinion on that ruling. Recalling Ali Bulaç’s release at the end of the previous hearing on grounds that the nature of the allegations against him could be subject to change, the judge asserted that all jailed defendants in the case should have been released based on the principle of legal equality.
The court also set July 5 and 6 as the dates for the next hearing in the case.
In addition to P24, representatives from the NGOs Article 19, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Norwegian Embassy in Ankara, the Swedish Consul General in Istanbul, a lawyer from the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC), and representatives from the EU Delegation to Turkey monitored the two-day hearing at the Istanbul Courthouse.
The first day in the hearing got under way with the defense statement of Zaman’s former night shift editor İbrahim Karayeğen, who faces life in prison “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.”
Karayeğen told the court that he has been imprisoned for the past 23 months and that the indictment billed his journalistic endeavor as a criminal act. Noting that he worked with Zaman for 12 years, Karayeğen said the newspaper had no ties with any terrorist group throughout that period. He requested that he be acquitted of the charges and released.
Columnist Lale Sarıibrahimoğlu gave her defense statement next.
The prosecutor seeks prison sentences for Sarıibrahimoğlu and Nuriye Ural on the charge of “aiding an armed terrorist organization without being part of its hierarchical structure.”
“A lifetime of standing up against military tutelage”
Sarıibrahimoğlu told the court that her articles for which she was indicted were from the period when the Fethullah Gülen movement had not yet been branded a “terrorist group” by the government.
She said the accusations were baseless: “I was placed in jail without even one piece of evidence against me. I am here in relation with coup allegations. As someone who has been against military tutelage her whole life, that the real perpetrators behind [the July 15, 2016 coup attempt] have not been found makes me incredibly sad. I am being unfairly indicted.”
Sarıibrahimoğlu also told the court that she requested her press card and her passport to be returned.
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.
“I am being incriminated based on the newspaper I wrote for,” said Bulaç, adding that the content of his writing was being ignored.
He also said that both the indictment and the prosecutor’s final opinion featured excerpts from his articles that form the basis of the allegations. Instead, Bulaç said, the articles should have been included in their entirety. “I have done nothing but journalism. I would like to remain a man of ideas,” Bulaç said, requesting his acquittal.
Second day of defense statements
Columnist Ahmet Turan Alkan gave his defense statement on the second day of the hearing.
The prosecutor seeks an aggravated life sentence and an additional 15 years imprisonment for Alkan on charges of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” and “membership in an armed terrorist organization.”
Noting that he was among journalists who have spent the longest time in pretrial detention, Alkan said the evidence against him consisted solely of his newspaper columns.
Alkan said the articles he wrote about the 2013 graft probe, popularly known as “December 17-25,” were the main reason he is standing trial and said the case was politically motivated.
“Don’t expect an apology”
“I suppose I must have irked and infuriated the government. But do not expect me to apologize. I will not even ask to be released from prison. […] I am a Zaman columnist, I am a dissident. I was not a dissident before, but I am now. … I am a writer. I stand behind everything that I wrote, because I wrote none of them on instruction,” Alkan said.
Addressing the court following Alkan, his lawyer Faruk Zorba said his client lost around 30 kilos during his time in prison and had health issues. The lawyer requested additional time to review his final defense statement. He also requested Alkan to be released.
The last defendant addressing the court was Nuriye Ural. Asserting that she has always been against coups and that she has never been involved in any act of violence, Ural said: “Journalism is not a crime. Writing about corruption is a journalistic act. You can only accuse me based on my actions.” Ural requested to be acquitted. Her lawyer requested additional time for the final defense statement.
Announcing its interim ruling following the defense statements, the court rejected all requests for acquittal and the lifting of judicial control measures on the defendants and adjourned the trial until July.
Zaman columnists Mümtazer Türköne, Orhan Kemal Cengiz and Mustafa Ünal and managing editor Mehmet Özdemir had given their defense statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion during the previous hearing of the trial on May 10-11. **
Authorities subsequently transferred Türköne to Istanbul for questioning, and Istanbul's Third Court of Penal Peace on August 4, 2016, ordered him jailed, pending trial on charges of "serving to the aims of the terrorist organization FETÖ/PDY."
According to the court records of his arraignment, the state alleged that Türköne was "a columnist at a newspaper issued in the name of the organization, and that he served the aims of the organization with his articles."
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 it assumed after the failed July 15, 2016, military coup to order the newspaper closed by decree on July 27, 2016.
According to court documents, Türköne told the court that he had been a political scientist for 30 years and that he had written 16 books. He said the idea to "call on the people to take to the streets in case of a military coup, as President Erdoğan did," originated with him. On the night of the July 15, 2016, failed military coup, the Turkish president called on citizens to fill the streets to foil the mutinous soldiers' plans. Türköne told the court that he spoke about this idea on many television shows and in many newspaper columns prior to July 2016 as a means of foiling future coup attempts.
Türköne said police produced five of his articles as evidence for his support for the attempted coup. The columnist denied the allegations, and said all the articles were calling for alternative democratic solutions, and the removal of the government through elections.
"I know Fethullah Gülen. I know that Zaman newspaper was under his control," Türköne told the court. "As an author, to reach a wider audience, I preferred to write in Zaman, which [had] the highest circulation in Turkey."
"During the time I wrote for Zaman, there was no open intervention about what to write. Sometimes [staff] reminded me of current issues and advised me to write about different issues. No intervention happened over any article I wrote. I also do not feel I am dependent on the editorial policy of the newspaper," Türköne told the court.
Türköne 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 Zamanand 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.
Türköne denies the charges, according to the indictment. If convicted, he faces multiple life sentences, without parole.
The next court date was scheduled for December 8, 2017, according to press reports.
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