Sakarya court convicts Kaplan for “membership in a terrorist organization” in case that had been pending since 2010 

Journalist Çağdaş Kaplan was sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization” by a court in the western province of Sakarya on May 31. Kaplan, who recently became the founding editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper Yeni Yaşam, which was launched earlier in May, was also handed down a travel ban pending appeal.

The case against Kaplan has been dragging since 2010, from when he used to be a reporter for the now shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA). Kaplan was arrested at the time for his reporting of the operations against the Kurdish students at the Sakarya University, where he, too, was a student. A prosecutor subsequently pressed charges against Kaplan and others who were arrested as part of the case.

During the verdict hearing at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Sakarya, which was monitored by P24, the court found Kaplan and the 18 other defendants in the case guilty of “membership in a terrorist organization” and sentenced each to 6 years and 3 months in prison.

Lawyer: Çağdaş Kaplan is a journalist

Kaplan’s lawyer Gülcan Kartal Bağat said her client was a journalist, working as a reporter for the now-closed DİHA news agency at the time of the operation. Documents proving his journalism were submitted to the court, she said.

Bağat also expressed her dismay regarding the investigation and charges brought by the prosecution. “[The prosecution] attempted to produce evidence by means of interpretation and forcing [the situation],” Bağat said. “The initial investigation is entirely unlawful. Police resorted to the ‘enemy criminal law’,” she said. 

Bağat said none of the allegations in the indictment had been based on any concrete evidence whatsoever. “Allegations that Kaplan provided the organization with new recruits lack any concrete basis. All the accusations are based on a phone conversation that Çağdaş Kaplan made with a childhood friend in order to learn the mailing address of his sister, who was in jail [at the time]. We don’t accept this phone conversation as evidence,” Bağat said.

“A criminal charge was created with forced evidence. Çağdaş Kaplan is a journalist and he continues to do his job as the editor-in-chief of a daily newspaper,” she added.

The case was overseen by a specially authorized high criminal court in Istanbul until 2014, when those courts were abolished by law. The case was then handed to the 2nd High Criminal Court of Sakarya. While the Constitutional Court ruled to rehear prominent cases such as the Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledghammer) coup trials considering the judgment of the specially authorized courts invalid, Kaplan’s case moved forward despite the significant changes in the legal system.