Verdict means eight of the 14 convicted defendants will return to prison to serve their remaining sentences
An appellate court on 18 February upheld convictions against 14 former journalists and executives of the Cumhuriyet daily, paving the way for the return of eight of them to prison to serve the remainder of their terms.
The 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, acting as the appellate court, said that it rejected appeals against the original verdict delivered by the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court since it had not found “any substantial or procedural violations” in the ruling nor any “shortcomings in the evidence or proceedings.”
The appellate court’s ruling means eight defendants of the Cumhuriyet trial will return to prison to serve the remainder of their sentences since, under the Turkish law, prison terms under five years are finalized when they are upheld by the appellate courts.
The eight people include former Cumhuriyet columnist Kadri Gürsel, lawyer Bülent Utku, former Cumhuriyet ombudsman Güray Öz, cartoonist Musa Kart, columnist Hakan Kara, former Cumhuriyet Foundation Executive Board members Mustafa Kemal Güngör and Önder Çelik and the newspaper’s accounting department employee Emre İper, who were given prison terms of 2.5 years to 4.5 years on terrorism-related charges. They were all kept in pre-trial detention for varying periods of time and released during the trial process.
Other Cumhuriyet executives and journalists who were given prison terms of more than five years — Ahmet Şık, Akın Atalay, Aydın Engin, Hikmet Çetinkaya, Murat Sabuncu and Orhan Erinç — can further appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeals since their sentences are longer than five years.
The appellate court also upheld the conviction against school teacher Ahmet Kemal Aydoğdu, the only defendant in the Cumhuriyet case who is currently behind bars. Aydoğdu, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “leading a terrorist organization,” is not a member of the Cumhuriyet staff and was included in the case for his alleged tweets which the prosecutor claimed had been the source of some news reports published by Cumhuriyet. The court rejected requests for his release also.
The appellate court upheld three acquittal decisions rendered by the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court as well. Former Cumhuriyet book supplement editor Turhan Günay and financial administrators Bülent Yener and Günseli Özaltay were acquitted of all charges at the end of the original trial.
The criminal court concluded the trial of 18 defendants in the Cumhuriyet case on 25 April 2018, sentencing 14 journalists and executives of the newspaper to prison terms from 2.5 years to over eight years. The court, however, had released all but one Cumhuriyet defendant, Cumhuriyet Foundation Executive Board Chairman Akın Atalay, until the final hearing. Atalay himself was released pending appeal at the end of the final hearing. A more detailed report on the convictions can be viewed here.
Most of the Cumhuriyet executives and journalists who were put on trial either resigned or were fired from the newspaper after a court decision resulted in the takeover of its administration in the fall of 2018.
Individual applications filed by several former Cumhuriyet journalists and executives are still pending before the Constitutional Court.