Trial kicks off with a record number of journalists as suspects

Journalist Büşra Erdal, as she was detained.

In one of the most important press freedom cases in Turkey, 29 journalists, most are in pre-trial detention for eight months without a trial and conviction, are set to appear finally for a first hearing in İstanbul’s No.25 High Criminal Court on March 27, 2017.

Journalists were accused of membership of a hoax terror organization called ‘FETÖ’, a pejorative acronym that Turkey’s political Islamist government has used to smear the civic Gülen movement as a ‘terrorist organization’. Prosecutor Murat Çağlak seeks up to 10 year prison sentence for 28 journalists and a life sentence for journalist Said Sefa.

The indicted journalists are Abdullah Kılıç, Ahmet Memiş, Ali Akkuş, Atilla Taş, Bayram Kaya, Bülent Ceyhan, Bünyamin Köseli, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Cihan Acar, Cuma Ulus, Davut Aydın, Emre Soncan, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Habib Güler, Halil İbrahim Balta, Hanım Büşra Erdal, Hüseyin Aydın, Muhammed Sait Kuloğlu, Muhterem Tanık, Murat Aksoy, Mustafa Erkan Acar, Mutlu Çölgeçen, Oğuz Usluer, Said Sefa, Seyid Kılıç, Ufuk Şanlı, Ünal Tanık, Yakup Çetin and Yetkin Yıldız. 25 journalists are imprisoned in the case while the rest had to flee the country.

Most of the indicted journalists are former employees of the Zaman media group that was unlawfully seized by the government on March 4, 2016 and later was shut down immediately after a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Then Turkey’s most circulated daily, Zaman, was seen as affiliated with the Gülen movement.

In the 196 page indictment there is not a single incident of terrorist activity on the part of any of the journalists as they are basically being charged for their articles, news and critical messages on Twitter. Many journalists are allegedly linked with a whistleblower twitter account, Fuat Avni who has about 3 million followers. The prosecutor also claims working at the critical media outlets which were shut down by the government is sufficient proof to be a member of a terrorist organization. Having an account at private Bank Asya has also been linked with supporting Gülen movement.

Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has previously published stories on how the prosecutor cited social media posts by journalists as evidence of crime and terror in the controversial indictment. Ironically these tweets and articles in the indictment had never been subject of any investigation or prosecution until journalists were arrested. Prosecutor Çağlak’s indictment has also included some articles and social media posts criticizing Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayip Erdoğan and his family members, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab who was accused of bribing Turkish ministers and is currently in jail in the US for violating sanctions against Iran.

Most of the journalists were detained and subsequently arrested in the aftermath of failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The hearings at the court starts on Monday and are expected to continue five consecutive days. Turkey is the worst jailer of journalists in the world. SCF has recently announced the number of journalists behind bars reached to a new record with 200 languishing in Turkish jails, most without a trial and convictions.


Abdullah Kılıç

Abdullah Kılıç (Meydan Daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: 5 articles, 7 tweets, having a bank account at Bank Asya, a photo album of his documentary on the 1960 military coup/ DVD of a TV program he participated at Habertürk TV network.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 

 


Ahmet Memiş

Ahmet Memiş (Haberdar.com)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: Being a news coordinator at news portal haber.com and previously at another online news site rotahaber.com that were critical of the government, a famous whistle blower twitter account Fuat Avni who reveled gov’t plots, claimed to be used by a terrorist organization, tweeted about him.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 


Ali Akkuş

Ali Akkuş (Zaman Daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: A news article published on Zaman daily’s web site zaman.com.tr in 2009, receiving severance and compensation payments by the Zaman daily newspaper he had worked for years, 7 tweet messages and 9 retweets.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 


Atilla Taş

Atilla Taş (Meydan Daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: 53 tweet messages, 17 op-ed pieces published on Meydan Daily for whch he was regular contributor, appearing on critical Bugün TV to protest government’s unlawful take over of the network.

Faces upto 10 years in prison if convicted.


Bayram Kaya

Bayram Kaya (Zaman Daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: Alleged to have defamed Bilal Erdoğan, son of Turkish President and run ‘black propaganda’ against Turkish government via his books on corruption in the government, 21 tweet messages and a number of ReTweets, Owning a book written by Fethullah Gülen in his library.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 

 


Bülent Ceyhan

Bülent Ceyhan (Özgür Düşünce Daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: Appearing on critical network Bugun TV to criticize the arrest of journalist Hidayet Karaca and Güktekin Avcı, a news article he wrote about Turkey’s terror challenges after the elections and Erdogan’s chaos plan, a one dollar bill, possessing a book written by Fethullah Gülen, CD copies of indictments and trial records he had followed as a court reporter, a souvenir photo taken during his military service.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 


Bünyamin Köseli

Bünyamin Köseli (Aksiyon Magazine)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: 10 tweets and 17 retweets.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.


Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu

Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu (Aksiyon Magazine)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: Working for Zaman Daily and Aksiyon Magazine, praising Fethullah Gülen on his book titled Nurlu Hayatlar he wrote, 2 tweets and 7 retweets.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 

 


Cihan Acar

Cihan Acar (Özgür Düşünce Daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: Tweeting against the government’s unlawful seizure of Zaman Daily with a hashtag #ZamanSusturulamaz (Zaman cannot be silenced), 2 articles on his personal web blog, a news article, joining in a protest outside the courtroom.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 

 


Cuma Ulus

Cuma Ulus (Can Erzincan Tv)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: Being a top editor at Millet Daily, commenting on government’s takeover of his paper in a news story carried by a news agency, 20 retweets, announcing new satellite lineup for critical network Can Erzincan TV, having a bank account at Bank Asya, a tweet message about him by a whistle blower twitter account Fuat Avni.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 


Davut Aydın (merkurhaber.com)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: Allegedly promoting a whistleblower twitter account, Fuat Avni with his pen name.

Faces upto 10 years in prison if convicted.

 


Emre Soncan

Emre Soncan (Yeni Hayat Daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: A biography book on former President Abdullah Gül whom he had covered for years as a reporter, joining a news program to talk about his book on critical Halk TV network, and commenting how Erdoğan damaging Turkey’s image, 27 tweet messages, having an account at Bank Asya.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 


Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu

Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu (Türk Solu Magazine)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: 57 tweets, 7 Books and an article published at Türk Solu magazine.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 

 

 


Habip Güler

Habip Güler (Zaman Daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: Working at a critical newspaper Yarına Bakış, having an account at Bank Asya, 12 tweets, having 2 books written by Fethullah Gülen, having a book written by Mehmet Baransu, another jailed journalist.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 

 


İbrahim Balta

İbrahim Balta (Yarına Bakış Daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: Retweeting 4 tweets of whistle blower account Fuat Avni, 4 tweets, 2 Retweets, having 18 books written by Fethullah Gülen, a book about Gülen written by an American writer, CDs about Gülen, having a bank account at Bank Asya.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 

 


Hanım Büşra Erdal

Hanım Büşra Erdal (Yeni Hayat Daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: Writing two books on Ergenekon, the alleged ultra-nationalists deep state network, that was subjected to investigations and trials, 20 tweets, 3 retweets, 11 articles, owning 17 books written by Fethullah Gülen.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 

 


Hüseyin Aydın

Hüseyin Aydın (samanyoluhaber.com)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: Protesting organizers who denied his entry to an event whose honor guest was Emine Erdoğan, wife of the President, 15 tweets, 2 retweets.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 

 

 


Muhammed Sait Kulaoğlu

Muhammed Sait Kuloğlu (subuohaber.com)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: Being a top editor at online news portal subuohaber.com, posting 493 messages on his social media accounts and interviewing with whistle blower Fuat Avni.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 

 

 

Muhterem Tanık

Muhterem Tanık (rotahaber.com)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: Being a news coordinator at online news portal Rotahaber in which Fuat Avni, a whistle blower, was one of the columnists, owning 23 books written by Fethullah Gülen, having an account at Bank Asya.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 

 


Murat Aksoy

Murat Aksoy (Yeni Hayat Daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: His critical comments in a program he joined as a guest at Halk TV network, 11 articles published at Millet Daily and Yeni Hayat Daily, 18 tweets and 3 retweets.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 

 

 


Mustafa Erkan Acar

Mustafa Erkan Acar (Özgür Düşünce Daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: Two books titled “Dark Room” and “Code Name: Köroğlu” he wrote on Ergenekon investigations and trials, giving an interview to news portal HaberIstanbul.com on government’s take over critical media outlets, an article, being a member of the advocacy group Council of Media Ethic, having an account at Bank Asya.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 


Mutlu Çölgeçen

Mutlu Çölgeçen (Millet Daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: News articles he wrote on Ergenekon and Balyoz investigations and trials, two articles published in pro-government dailies, Sabah and Yeni Asır, 35 tweets.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 

 

 


Oğuz Usluer

Oğuz Usluer (Habertürk Tv)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: A tweet message Fuat Avni, a whistle blower, posted about him after Usluer was fired from Haberturk TV network, using a smart phone application known as ByLock.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 

 


Said Sefa

Said Sefa (haberdar.com)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: Allegedly creator of twitter account of Fuat Avni, being editor-in-chief of a critical news portal haberdar.com, having an account at Bank Asya and 9 tweet messages.

Faces a lifetime jail if convicted.

 

 


Seyid Kılıç

Seyid Kılıç (TRT)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: Writing news stories about Kimse Yok mu?, a charity organization established by people affiliated with the Gülen, having an account at Bank Asya and 4 tweets.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 

 


Ufuk Şanlı

Ufuk Şanlı (Millet Daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: 28 tweets, 5 retweets, downloading a smart phone application known as ByLock.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 

 

 


Ünal Tanık

Ünal Tanık (rotahaber.com)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: Being the editor in-chief of a critical news portal rotahaber.com, announcing to his readers that Fuat Avni, a whistle blower, would start writing articles at rotahaber.com, not disclosing IP information of Fuat Avni.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 

 


Yakup Çetin

Yakup Çetin (Yeni Hayat Daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: Interviewing a dismissed police officer, 13 tweets and 1 retweets.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

 

 

 


Yetkin Yıldız

Yetkin Yıldız (aktifhaber.com)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization.

Evidence: Being the editor-in-chief of critical news portal aktifhaber.com, having an account at Bank Asya.

Faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

March 24, 2017
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