Sönmez was on trial over Cumhuriyet website’s coverage of Turkey’s 2018 military operation in Syria

CANSU PİŞKİN, ISTANBUL 

The fifth and final hearing in the trial of journalist Atakan Sönmez, the former news director of Cumhuriyet daily’s online edition, was held on 7 November 2019 at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Sönmez was accused in the indictment of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” over Cumhuriyet website’s coverage of Turkey’s 2018 military operation in the Afrin district of Syria.

P24 monitored the hearing, where Sönmez and his lawyer Buket Yazıcı were in attendance.

The hearing began half an hour later than scheduled.

The presiding judge Ali Günay asked Sönmez if he would like to make an additional defense statement in response to the accusation in Article 6/2 of the Law on the Fight against Terror (TMK) — “printing or publishing declarations or announcements that legitimize or praise the methods of a terrorist organization” — in case this accusation is applied in his case.

In his additional defense statement, Sönmez told the court that under the judicial reform package, news coverage that intends to inform can no longer be considered within the scope of “propaganda.” Asking the court to take into consideration the amendment introduced in TMK with the judicial reform, Sönmez requested to be acquitted. Sönmez’s lawyer also requested her client’s acquittal.

Reiterating his previous final opinion, the prosecutor demanded the court to convict Sönmez of “systematically disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

After hearing the closing arguments, the court panel went into a brief recess, during which the audience, the defendant and defense lawyers were asked to leave the courtroom. The panel deliberated on its verdict in the presence of the prosecutor. Voting unanimously in opposition to the prosecutor’s final opinion, the panel sentenced Sönmez to 10 months in prison on the charge of “printing or publishing declarations or announcements legitimizing or praising the methods of a terrorist organization.” The sentence was suspended. Sönmez will be subject to probation for 10 months.

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