Güray Öz, who is the news ombudsman and a columnist for Cumhuriyet, is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Cumhuriyet Foundation.
Öz was detained on October 31, 2016 at an early morning raid on his Ankara home as part of the wider operation targeting Cumhuriyet executives and writers. He was later flown to İstanbul, where the probe is being conducted. The İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s office in a statement after the detentions said that the Cumhuriyet Foundation executives were being investigated “for supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party(PKK)/Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) and Fethullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure (FETÖ/PDY)” and in connection with allegations that the newspaper had published reports legitimizing the July 15 coup attempt. The statement said those detained were accused of “committing a crime on behalf of PKK/KCK and FETÖ/PDY without being member.”
On November 5, 2016, the Istanbul 9th Criminal Judgeship of Peace ruled to jail nine Cumhuriyet executives and employees, including Öz, pending trial.
The indictment, which was prepared much later in the process, seeks between 8.5 to 22 years for Öz on charges of “helping a terrorist organization while not being a member” and “abuse of trust.”
The prosecution claims that Öz is a suspect because he has had phone conversations with a person who allegedly used ByLock, a chat application allegedly used by the members of the Fethullah Gülen network, and with another person who was being investigated on suspicion of having links to what the authorities call the “FETÖ/PDY armed terrorist organization.” The prosecutor also maintains Öz consistently “failed to relay the negative reactions and disturbances expressed by the newspaper’s readers about Cumhuriyet’s new editorial policy to the management.” The prosecution says that Öz “acted together with the other suspects who came to the helm of the Cumhuriyet Foundation in 2013 and made a radical change to the newspaper’s editorial policy.”
Additionally, the indictment seeks between one to seven years for Öz regarding a loan given to a company by the Foundation, accusing him of “abusing trust in office.”
Lawyers for 10 Cumhuriyet journalists and executives applied to the European Court of Human Rights in March, more than three months after filing an application with Turkey’s Constitutional Court for their release on the grounds that their detention constitutes rights violations. The European court notified the lawyers in April that although their application is not given formal priority treatment under Rules of Court, it will be discussed “as soon as possible.” In June, the court revealed that it has asked the Turkish government to respond to a set of questions pertaining to the rights violations complaints raised in the application until October 2, 2017.
Öz appeared before a court for the first time during the first hearing of the trial, on July 24-28, 2017. He testified on the second day of the week, saying: “The fact that the prosecutors are talking about a change in editorial policy is concrete proof that the subject of this trial are news reports, articles and writings — or, in other words, journalism. This is exactly why the prosecutors are only talking about news stories, articles and front-page headlines.” Öz stated that a person with whom he’s said to have communicated with in the indictment is the owner of a fastfood restaurant in Çankaya, Ankara. He said it was impossible for him to know that the owner of the restaurant from where he occasionally orders food was being investigated for any reason.
The full text of Öz’s defense statement at the court can be read here (in Turkish).
At the end of the first week of the trial, the court ruled to release seven of the defendants in the case, including Öz, with an international travel ban, but ruled to keep the remaining five, four of whom are Cumhuriyet journalists, in pre-trial detention.
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 defendants 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.
You can read full indictment into Cumhuriyet journalists and executives here (in Turkish).