Ünal, who has been imprisoned for over two years, is acquitted of the “coup” charge, for which he faced aggravated life imprisonment

 

Ali Ünal, a former columnist for the shuttered daily Zaman, appeared before a court in the Uşak province on 14 November for the final hearing of his trial on “coup” and terrorism-related charges, facing two aggravated life sentences and an additional prison sentence of up to 29.5 years.

Issuing its verdict at the end of the hearing, monitored by P24, the 2nd High Criminal Court of Uşak acquitted Ünal of the “coup” charge but convicted him of “establishing and leading an armed terrorist organization” and imposed on Ünal a prison sentence of 19 years and 6 months.

Before the announcement of the verdict, Ünal made his final defense statement. 

Addressing the court through the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS from the İzmir No. 2 F Type High Security Prison, Ünal rejected the accusations.

Ünal was accused of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order,” “establishing and leading an armed terrorist organization” and “membership in an armed terrorist organization” over links with the banned Fethullah Gülen movement.

Explaining to the court that he has been a newspaper columnist for 26 years and that his columns appeared in Zaman for 20 years, Ünal said he wrote and translated dozens of books in Turkish and English.

Asserting that his name did not appear in any other court cases targeting the Fethullah Gülen movement, Ünal said he had not assumed any duties within the movement. Ünal added: “They asked me to bring together authors of theology books to found and lead a group along the lines of Islamic Studies Institute but I refused them saying I was not suitable for a managerial position. When they asked me to teach theology to PhD level students studying in the United States, I also refused that. It is being claimed that I had acted on behalf of the Gülen group, and organized meetings. But all of the witnesses called by the prosecution testified that this allegation was not true; that all I did was speak on the theme of religion in gatherings.”

Ünal told also told the court that none of the witnesses who had testified in the case could point to any substantial evidence to support the charge of “establishing and leading an armed terrorist organization.”

After Ünal and his lawyer completed their final defense statements, the prosecutor requested Ünal’s conviction on the charges of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order,” “establishing and leading an armed terrorist organization” and “membership in an armed terrorist organization.”

Announcing its verdict after a brief recess, the panel of judges acquitted Ünal of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order,” but convicted him of “establishing and leading an armed terrorist organization” and sentenced the columnist to 19 years and 6 months in prison.