BirGün editor Burak Ekici sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in jail after 7 months in pretrial detention; court orders his release on judicial control terms

Burak Ekici, an editor for the BirGün daily, who has been in pretrial detention since August 2017, was sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization” by the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul on February 27 at what was the second hearing of his trial. The court also ruled to release Ekici on judicial control terms, including a travel ban imposed on the journalist, in consideration of the seven months he has spent in pre-trial detention.

P24 monitored the hearing in the courtroom at the Istanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan.

Lawyer İbrahim Pehlivan said during the hearing that the allegation that Ekici had the encrypted messaging application “ByLock” on his phone, purported to be used exclusively by the Fethullah Gülen network, was disproved by an expert report submitted to the court. According to the indictment, Ekici’s phone sent out “217 ByLock signals,” but Pehlivan said the expert report showed serious mistakes in the technical data in the indictment. “We think that the data in the files cannot constitute evidence. The mere presence of ByLock signals means no substantial evidence,” he said.

Pehlivan also noted that the Turkish Supreme Court of Appeals held in a recent decision concerning ByLock that the use of the application should be supported with other evidence to be valid evidence for membership in the Fethullah Gülen network, referred to by Turkish authorities as “FETÖ.” “None of them are found in this file,” he said.

Ekici also noted the discrepancies regarding the ByLock data revealed by the expert report. “I am a socialist. FETÖ has always been FETÖ for me,” he said.

Ekici was arrested on August 10, 2017, along with 10 other journalists, on the allegation that they were ByLock users. Ten of the 11 journalists, including Ekici, were jailed pending trial.

The release of Ekici on February 27 brought the number of journalists in prison in Turkey to 155. A detailed list can be found here.

Columnist Ali Ünal remains behind bars after 2nd hearing

Ali Ünal, a former columnist for the shuttered Zaman daily, who has been in pretrial detention since August 2016, appeared on February 27 at the second hearing of a trial in which he stands accused of “attempting to overthrow the Constitutional order,” “establishing and running a terrorist organization” and “membership in a terrorist organization” charges.

The indictment seeks two aggravated life sentences and an additional 29.5 years in prison for Ünal. Evidence against Ünal includes 17 of his newspaper columns and various spoken remarks. His cell phone, seized by authorities during his arrest, is subject to examination as part of the case.

The Uşak 2nd High Criminal Court ruled at the end of Tuesday’s hearing for the continuation of Ünal’s detention and adjourned the trial to May 10 to allow extra time for the examination of Ünal’s cell phone.

Journalist Muhammet Doğru handed down 8 years in prison 

Muhammet Doğru, a reporter for the shuttered Dicle news agency (DİHA), was given a suspended prison sentence on February 26 at the final hearing of a case in which he was on trial alongside 12 other co-defendants at the Sakarya 2nd High Criminal Court.

Doğru was sentenced to six years and three months in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization” and an additional two years and three months for “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” at the final hearing of his trial.

Doğru was among the 13 co-defendants in the case. The court suspended the sentences.

Özgür Toplum employee Kılıç appears in first hearing

On February 26, Fahrettin Kılıç, an employee of the Özgür Toplum magazine, who has been in pretrial detention since March 2017, appeared in the first hearing of the trial against him on “membership in a terrorist organization” charges at the Adana 13th High Criminal Court.

The trial was adjourned to May 23 when Kılıç requested to give his defense statement in Kurdish but an interpreter was not available, the Mezopotamya news agency reported.

Özgür Toplum employee detained in Adana 

Mevlüt Gür, an Adana-based employee for the Özgür Toplum magazine, was taken into custody in Adana on February 25.

Gür was detained by the police as he and another person, an unidentified woman who was also taken into custody along with Gür, were walking on a street in the Seyhan district on grounds of “possession of a banned publication” and providing “financial aid to a terrorist organization.”


For a full list of all the imprisoned journalists in Turkey, visit this spreadsheet. Lists of all of the foundations and associations as well as media outlets shut down can also be found at the same link, although on different tabs of the same spreadsheet.