Prosecutor drops “coup” charge against Orhan Kemal Cengiz, İhsan Dağı, İbrahim Karayeğen and Mehmet Özdemir

The prosecutor in the trial of 11 former Zaman columnists and editors submitted a revised opinion to the court, amending the “coup” and “terrorism” charges against four of the defendants. 

The additional final opinion of the prosecutor on the case, presented to the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court on 24 April, removes the charge of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order,” a crime punishable by aggravated life sentence, for the four defendants– lawyer and former Bugün newspaper columnist Orhan Kemal Cengiz, academic and former Zaman columnist İhsan Dağı and former Zaman editors Mehmet Özdemir and İbrahim Karayeğen. 

Instead, the additional final opinion of the prosecutor calls for prison terms for Özdemir and Karayeğen on the charge of “leading an armed terrorist organization,” punishable by up to 22,5 years. As for Dağı and Cengiz, the prosecutor seeks up to 13 years in jail on the less severe charge of “repeatedly spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

The prosecutor’s final opinion on the case, which lays out finalized charges against the defendants following the conclusion of earlier stages of the trial, serves as a revised indictment submitted to the court before it reaches a verdict. The court generally announces its verdict on the case after defendants and their lawyers present their final defense statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion.

The submission of the additional final opinion comes weeks before the next hearing in the Zaman case, due to be held on 10-11 May. 

The final opinion presented to the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court during the previous hearing held on 5 April requested aggravated life sentences for the four defendants on the charge of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” and an additional prison term of up to 15 years on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.”

Former Zaman columnists Ali Bulaç, Ahmet Turan Alkan, Mümtazer Türköne, Mustafa Ünal and Şahin Alpay still face these same charges, while Nuriye Akman and Lale Kemal are charged with “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”

Alpay was released on 16 March after nearly 20 months in prison following the Constitutional Court judgments that his pre-trial detention led to rights violations, although he remains in house arrest.

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