Cumhuriyet columnist Aydın Engin was detained on October 31, 2016 after a raid of his home by police.
The columnist was detained as part of a criminal investigation into the executives and columnists of Cumhuriyet daily. In response to a reporter’s question on why he was being detained while he was being taken to the Police Department, the 76-year old journalist said: “I work at Cumhuriyet. Is that not enough reason for detention?”
On November 5, six days after his arrest, the journalist appeared before the Istanbul 9th Criminal Judgeship of Peace. He was released on judicial control measures due to his advanced age.
The indictment into the Cumhuriyet journalists, which came much later, accuses Engin of “aiding a terrorist organization while not being a member,” demanding between 7.5 to 15 years in prison for the journalist.
Some of his columns are included in the indictment as evidence against him. The prosecutor accuses him of covertly criticizing actions taken against the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ/PDY)” — the name given to the Fethullah Gülen network by Turkish authorities, which they say was behind the 15 July coup attempt and of “attempting to lessen the impact of the fight against FETÖ/PDY and creating a bad reputation about it.” Engin is also accused of helping a terrorist organization as phone records show he was called by people who used ByLock, a messaging application allegedly used by the members of the Fethullah Gülen network, and that some of the people who had records of phone communication with him were being investigated in relation with FETÖ probes. Additionally, Aydın attended the Abant Platform meetings, organized by the Gülen-affiliated Foundation of Journalists and Writers.
In his testimony to the prosecutors, Engin said he had openly condemned the coup attempt, and joined the Abant meetings, treating these as a news source.
The first hearing of the trial where Engin and other Cumhuriyet journalists and columnists are charged with terrorism and “abuse of trust” went under way on July 24 at the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court.
Engin, who testified on the fourth day of the hearing on July 27, said Akın Atalay and Bülent Utku, two Cumhuriyet Foundation executives who had testified before him, had given ample response to the indictment. “I also find no meaning in making any statements about nine of my articles that were included in the indictment as if they are elements of crime which were never investigated by prosecutors before the expiration of statute of limitations on time,” he said. His finishing words were: “It is causing me shame in the name of law and pain for my country that I and my friends were put on the defense stand with such an indictment.”
In its interim decision which came on July 28, the court ruled for the release of seven of those in prison pending completion of trial; while ruling that four other Cumhuriyet journalists and another defendant should continue to remain in jail.
Engin is still subject to an international travel ban.
The next hearing in the trial is scheduled for July 11, 2017.
The Turkish-language indictment into Cumhuriyet executives and writers can be accessed here.