Hikmet Çetinkaya, one of Cumhuriyet’s most well-known writers, is also on the Cumhuriyet Foundation’s Board of Directors.
The 74-year old journalist was first detained on October 31, 2016 as part of the investigtion into Cumhuriyet’s executives and writers. The Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s office in a statement after the detention 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 seeking to legitimize 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.”
The prosecution referred Çetinkaya, after his interrogation, to the Istanbul 9th Criminal Judgeship of Peace, requesting that he be released under judicial control measures given his poor health and advanced age. The judgeship obliged, letting Çetinkaya go on November 5 under judicial control measures.
The indictment states that Çetinkaya has had phone conversations with seven people who were found out to be the users of ByLock — a telephone chat application allegedly used only by members of the “FETÖ/PDY organization” — or people who had undergone FETÖ-related investigations. Another evidence against him that he once attended a breakfast organization of the shuttered Foundation of Journalists and Writers (GYV), an organization which had known affiliation with the Fethullah Gülen network, and was photographed arm-in-arm with the former head of the GYV. There is also a witness statement against him which states that Çetinkaya changed his usually critical stance towards the Gülen network in the recent years. The prosecution accuses him of acting together with the other board members to “radically change the newspaper’s editorial policy,” and thus, support different terrorist groups.
As a board member, Çetinkaya is accused of having played a role in “loans to companies with very low credit ratings,” and leading the company that runs the newspaper to lose profits because of the sale of one property item. The prosecution demands between two to 14 years for Çetinkaya for this charge.
On July 27, Çetinkaya defended himself in court for the first time, at the first hearing held at the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court on July 24-28, 2017.
“I reject this indictment. I want my acquittal,” he said.
Çetinkaya also said that he would never compromise from the principles of secularism, democracy and the rule of law. “When I reported on the Fethullah Gülen network infiltrating the police, judiciary and educational institutions, Turkey didn’t know about Fethullah Gülen.”
He said he had been sued by Gülen many times for his writings.
On July 28, the court announced its interim decision to release seven of those in prison pending completion of trial. It also ruled that judicial control measures imposed earlier on Çetinkaya will remain in place in the form of an international travel ban.
The next hearing in the trial is scheduled for September 11. The hearing will take place at a courtroom inside the Silivri prison compound near Istanbul, as the courtroom at the Istanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan, where the first hearing took place, was too small to accommodate the large audience.
The Turkish-language indictment into Cumhuriyet executives and writers can be viewed here.