Cumhuriyet columnist Aydın Engin was detained on October 31, 2016 after a raid on 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.
You can read the full indictment into Cumhuriyet journalists and executives here (in Turkish).
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, 2017, 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 on July 28, the court ruled for the release of seven of those in prison pending the completion of the trial, while ruling that four other Cumhuriyet journalists and another defendant should continue to remain in jail.
The second hearing of the trial was held on September 11, 2017, at the courtroom inside the Silivri Prison premises. A detailed report about the hearing, in which no new release decisions were rendered, can be reached here.
The third hearing was held on September 25 at the Çağlayan courthouse. Three suspects delivered defense statements during the hearing, in which Cumhuriyet columnist Kadri Gürsel was released pending judgment.
During the fourth hearing, held on October 31, digital forensics expert Tuncay Beşikçi testified in relation to the encrypted messaging application ByLock. During the hearing, a new piece of evidence was introduced by the investigating prosecutor despite objection from defense attorneys. The session concluded without any new release orders.
The hearing scheduled for December 25 and 26 was concluded earlier than expected after defendant Ahmet Şık’s defense statement was cut short on grounds that it was “political” and Şık was removed from the courtroom. On the first day, after the presiding judge had Şık expelled from the courtroom on grounds that he “disrupted the order of the proceedings,” Cumhuriyet’s lawyers filed for a recusal. The panel of judges then decided that it would not be possible to hear the two witnesses who were expected to testify during the hearing and went on to issue an interim ruling, ordering the continuation of detention of the defendants on remand and of the judicial control terms imposed on the other defendants in the case.
The next hearing in the trial is scheduled for March 9, 2018, in Silivri.
Engin is still subject to an international travel ban.