Turkish court sentences 25 journalists to long prison terms over alleged links to Gülen movement

An İstanbul high criminal court on Thursday gave prison sentences ranging from 25 months to seven years, six months to 25 journalists on terror charges.

The journalists, some of whom used to work for media outlets affiliated with the Gülen movement, are alleged to be followers of the movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The movement strongly denies any involvement.

There were 29 defendants in the trial, 19 of whom were in pretrial detention.

The İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court, which heard the trial, handed down seven years, six month sentences to journalists Ahmet Memiş, Ali Akkuş, Muhammed Sait Kuloğlu, Mustafa Erkan Acar, Oğuz Usluer, Ufuk Şanlı, Yetkin Yıldız, Cuma Ulus, Mutlu Çölgeçen, Ünal Tanık, Seyid Kılıç and Davut Aydın on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

The court ruled for the re-arrest of journalist Akkuş, who was released last April.

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.

Journalist and singer Atilla Taş, who was released from prison last October after spending 14 months in jail, was given a sentence of three years, one-and-a-half months on charges of deliberately aiding a terrorist organization, while journalist Murat Aksoy, who was also released along with Taş last October after spending 421 days in jail, was given two years, one month in prison on charges of deliberately aiding a terrorist organization.

The court rejected the prosecutor’s request for the re-arrest of Taş and Aksoy and removed the obligation to sign in at a police station regularly yet ruled for the continuation of their travel ban.

Only one journalist, Muhterem Tanık, was acquitted in the trial. She is the wife of journalist Ünal Tanık. Journalists Bülent Ceyhan and Said Sefa, who are among the defendants of the trial are at large; hence, their files have been separated from the others. The file of journalist Emre Soncan was already separated from this trial earlier.

The final hearing of the trial resumed on Wednesday and continued on Thursday during which the defendants made their final defense statements and asked for their acquittal. All the journalists said in their defense statements that they only performed their jobs as journalists and did nothing unlawful. They said the media organizations they were working for, which were later designated as being linked to a terrorist organization, were all respectable organizations that operated within the boundaries of the law.

The court acquitted 13 journalists of charges of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order and attempting to destroy the Republic of Turkey.

Speaking to reporters following the announcement of the verdict, journalist Taş said: “This is a judicial decision, we have to respect it. I say all the time that I have had faith in justice, I have always believed in it. I did nothing other than show opposition [to the government]. If being an opponent is a crime in this country, then I am guilty.”

Following the July 15 coup attempt, the Turkish government designated the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization in a development that many say was politically motivated. Working at a Gülen-linked media organization, depositing money in the Gülen-linked Bank Asya or even downloading the mobile phone application ByLock, which is the top communication tool among the Gülen followers according to Turkish authorities, are all seen as signs of being a member of a terror organization.

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.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 245 journalists and media workers were in jail as of March 8, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 190 were under arrest pending trial while only 55 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 139 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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; possessing a photo album of his documentary on the 1960 military coup and a DVD of a TV program in which he appeared on the Habertürk TV network

Sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison.

 


Ahmet Memiş

Ahmet Memiş (Haberdar.com)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization

Evidence: Serving as news coordinator at news website haberdar.com and previously at another online news site, rotahaber.com, which were critical of the government; a famous whistleblower Twitter account, Fuat Avni, who revealed gov’t plots, claimed to be used by a terrorist organization, tweeted about him

Sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison.


Ali Akkuş

Ali Akkuş (Zaman daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization

Evidence: A news article published on the Zaman daily’s website, zaman.com.tr, in 2009; receiving severance and compensation payments from the Zaman daily newspaper where he had worked for years; 7 tweets, 9 retweets

Sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison.

 


Atilla Taş

Atilla Taş (Meydan daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization

Evidence: 53 tweets; 17 op-ed pieces published in the Meydan daily to whch he was a regular contributor; appearing on critical Bugün TV to protest government’s unlawful take over of the network

Sentenced to 3 years, 1 month and 15 days in prison.


Bayram Kaya

Bayram Kaya (Zaman daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization

Evidence: Alleged to have defamed Bilal Erdoğan, son of the Turkish president, and run ‘black propaganda’ against the Turkish government via his books on corruption in the government; 21 tweets and a number of retweets; owning a book written by Fethullah Gülen that was in his library

Sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison.

 


Bülent Ceyhan

Bülent Ceyhan (Özgür Düşünce daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization

Evidence: Appearing on critical network Bugün TV to criticize the arrest of journalists Hidayet Karaca and Gültekin Avcı; a news article he wrote about Turkey’s terror challenges after the elections and Erdogan’s chaos plan; possessing a one dollar bill; possessing a book written by Fethullah Gülen; possessing CD copies of indictments and records of trials 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, 17 retweets

Sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison.


Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu

Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu (Aksiyon magazine)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization

Evidence: Working for the Zaman daily and Aksiyon magazine; praising Fethullah Gülen in a book he authored titled “Nurlu Hayatlar”; 2 tweets, 7 retweets

Sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison.

 


Cihan Acar

Cihan Acar (Özgür Düşünce daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization

Evidence: Tweeting against the government’s unlawful seizure of the 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

Sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison.

 


Cuma Ulus

Cuma Ulus (Can Erzincan Tv)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization

Evidence: Serving as a top editor at the Millet daily; commenting on the government’s takeover of his paper in a news story carried by a news agency; 20 retweets; announcing a new satellite lineup for critical network Can Erzincan TV; having a bank account at Bank Asya; a tweet about him by whistleblower Twitter account Fuat Avni

Sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison.


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

Sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison.

 


Emre Soncan

Emre Soncan (Yeni Hayat daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization

Evidence: A biography of former President Abdullah Gül whom he had covered for years as a reporter; appearing on a news program on the critical Halk TV to talk about his book and commenting how Erdoğan was damaging Turkey’s image; 27 tweets; 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; an article published in Türk Solu magazine

Sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison.

 

 


Habip Güler

Habip Güler (Zaman daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization

Evidence: Working at 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

Sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison.

 


İbrahim Balta

İbrahim Balta (Yarına Bakış daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization

Evidence: Retweeting 4 tweets of whistleblower account Fuat Avni; 4 tweets, 2 retweets; having 18 books written by Fethullah Gülen, a book about Gülen written by an American author and CDs about Gülen; having a bank account at Bank Asya

Sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison.

 


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 ultranationalist deep state network that was the subject of investigations and trials; 20 tweets, 3 retweets; 11 articles; owning 17 books written by Fethullah Gülen

Sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison.

 


Hüseyin Aydın

Hüseyin Aydın (samanyoluhaber.com)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization

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

Sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison.

 

 


Muhammed Sait Kulaoğlu

Muhammed Sait Kuloğlu (subuohaber.com)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization

Evidence: Serving as a top editor at news website subuohaber.com; posting 493 messages on his social media accounts; interviewing whistleblower Fuat Avni

Sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison.

 

 

Muhterem Tanık

Muhterem Tanık (rotahaber.com)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization

Evidence: Serving as a news coordinator at news website Rotahaber for which Fuat Avni, a whistleblower, was one of the columnists; owning 23 books written by Fethullah Gülen; having an account at Bank Asya

Acquitted.

 

 


Murat Aksoy

Murat Aksoy (Yeni Hayat daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization

Evidence: His critical comments on a program on which he appeared as a guest on the Halk TV network; 11 articles published in the Millet daily and Yeni Hayat daily; 18 tweets and 3 retweets

Sentenced to years and 1 month in prison.

 

 


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 the Ergenekon investigations and trials; giving an interview to news website HaberIstanbul.com on the government’s takeover of critical media outlets; an article; being a member of the advocacy group the Council of Media Ethics; having an account at Bank Asya

Sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison.


Mutlu Çölgeçen

Mutlu Çölgeçen (Millet daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization

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

Sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison.

 

 


Oğuz Usluer

Oğuz Usluer (Habertürk TV)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization

Evidence: A tweet Fuat Avni, a whistleblower, posted about him after Usluer was fired from Haberturk TV; using a smartphone application known as ByLock

Sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison.

 

 


Said Sefa

Said Sefa (haberdar.com)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization

Evidence: Alleged creator of Twitter account Fuat Avni; serving as editor-in-chief of critical news website haberdar.com; having an account at Bank Asya; 9 tweets

Faces life in prison 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 movement; having an account at Bank Asya; 4 tweets

Sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison.

 

 


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

Sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison.

 

 


Ünal Tanık

Ünal Tanık (rotahaber.com)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization

Evidence: Serving as editor in-chief of critical news website rotahaber.com; announcing to his readers that Fuat Avni, a whistleblower, would start writing articles for rotahaber.com; refusing to disclose IP information of Fuat Avni

Sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison.

 


Yakup Çetin

Yakup Çetin (Yeni Hayat daily)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization

Evidence: Interviewing a dismissed police officer; 13 tweets, 1 retweet

Sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison.

 

 


Yetkin Yıldız

Yetkin Yıldız (aktifhaber.com)

Charge: Being a member of a terrorist organization

Evidence: Serving as editor-in-chief of critical news website aktifhaber.com; having an account at Bank Asya

Sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison.

Take a second to support SCF on Patreon!