Journalist Murat Çelikkan goes to prison; trial of Murat Aksoy and 12 other journalists on “coup” charges starts on August 16
Journalist and human rights defender Murat Çelikkan, who was given a one year and six months prison sentence in the trial where he was accused of terror-related charges for standing in as the editor-in-chief of the shuttered Özgür Gündem daily for one day as part of a solidarity campaign, was put in prison on August 14.
Çelikkan was tried on charges of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” for participating in the solidarity campaign organized for Özgür Gündem. The verdict in his case was given on May 16, 2017. The court did not introduce any reductions to his sentence on the grounds that “the defendant’s attitude in the courtroom doesn’t indicate a sufficient level of regret on his part.” His defense statement can be found here.
This has made Çelikkan the first person to be imprisoned in the dozens of trials launched against individuals who acted as an editor-in-chief for a day for Özgür Gündem. There is a possibility that Çelikkan might get out on parole after 45 days in prison. If not, he will remain in prison for 13 months under relevant laws.
Fifty out of the 56 individuals who participated in the solidarity campaign with Özgür Gündem, which was closed down in October 2016 with an emergency decree, in the summer of 2016 were subject to investigations. Eleven of these investigations were dropped while court cases were started for 38.
First hearing in new “coup” trial of journalists
The first session of a new trial launched against 13 journalists, including Murat Aksoy and Atilla Taş, where they are charged with “attempting to overthrow the government” is scheduled to be held on August 16-17 at the Istanbul 25th High Criminal Court.
On March 31, 13 journalists who were on trial for “membership in a terrorist organization” in a case targeting the “media arm of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization,” the name given to the group allegedly behind the 15 July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey by authorities, were released in the first hearing of that trial. However, before any of them could get out of prison, new arrest warrants were issued for them as part of a new investigation on coup charges. The panel of judges and the prosecutor who were assigned to the court case where the defendants were released were also removed from duty.
Former Zaman journalist Ali Akkuş was released under judicial control measures, but the 12 journalists were jailed pending trial on new charges after two weeks in police custody.
The indictment into the 13 journalists which was prepared later in the case accuses the defendants of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order,” and “attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey,” demanding life in prison for all of them.
The indictment was submitted to the Istanbul 25th High Criminal Court, with the prosecutor requesting that it be merged with the trial where the defendants are accused of “membership in a terrorist organization.
Three sessions have so far been held in that trial, where there are total of 29 suspects, most of whom are journalists.
Former news editor for FB TV detained by police
Yasir Kaya, a former news editor for Fenerbahçe TV, was taken into police custody as part of an investigation being conducted by the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office for using ByLock, an encrypted communications application which was allegedly used by members of the Fethullah Gülen network, on August 11.
Kaya was among the 35 journalists for whom arrest warrants were issued on August 10 on the grounds that they used the application. Nine of those on the list were detained in home raids on August 10.
News reports have said the nine journalists detained for using ByLock were BirGün daily’s internet editor Burak Ekici, former Zaman and Cihan news agency reporter Muhsin Pilgir, former İHA news agency news editor Ömer Faruk Aydemir, Sait Gürkan Tuzlu, managing editor for the shuttered Samanyolu Haber news station, Yusuf Duran, Ahmet Feyzullah Özyurt, former Türkiye newspaper columnist Ahmet Sağırlı and Mutlu Özay.
24 other journalists are now sought for arrest in the investigation. According to media reports from August 14, these individuals are Abdülkadir Gümüşsoy, Ahmet Doğan, Bedrettin Uğur, Yakup Üstün, Selim Sırrı Bayer, Mustafa Gürlek, Emrah Kamil Ülker, Ertuğrul Erbaş, Hüdaverdi Yıldırım, Hülya Tekin, İbrahim Yekebaş, İrfan Galip Dumlu, İsmail Muhammet Sağıroğlu, Levent Özkökeli, Mahir Etyemez, Mesut Ertanç, Murat Keskin, Mustafa Kılıç, Osman Çalık, Sedat Gülmez, Serdar Bal, Aysun Yazıcı Kurumahmut, Hasan Hüseyin Koç and Emrah Direk.
Dihaber journalists detained
On August 14, Dihaber journalists Deniz Nazlım and Aziz Oruç were detained by police. Nazlım was detained in a home raid in Ankara, while Oruç was detained by police outside the Dihaber office in Diyarbakır.
Nazlım was detained along with eight others, most of whom are executives in the People’s Democratic Party (HDP). The charges against him were not clear.
Similarly, there was no information on the reason for Oruç’s detention or where he was taken following his arrest.
Özgürlükçü Demokrasi employee detained
On August 14, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi employee Hamdullah Bayram was detained by police in a home raid in Şanlıurfa. Reports have said his detention was based on a tip-off from a source.
Public relations officer for Nilüfer Municipality arrested
Berhan Soner, the public relations officer of Bursa’s Nilüfer Municipality, was arrested on August 11 on charges of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization”
Soner was detained on August 10 for “propaganda for leftist terrorist organizations on a website he created” and “inciting the public to hostility.”
Soner, a former journalist, also served in the past as Chairman of the Bursa chapter of the Contemporary Journalists’ Association (ÇGD).
Dihaber reporter Altan released
Berivan Altan, a Dihaber reporter who was detained on August 10 in the southern province of Mersin on the basis of a tip-off that was sent to police, was released under judicial control measures by a court decision on August 11.
Özgürlükçü Demokrasi employees released
Two Özgürlükçü Demokrasi employees, Zinet Aşan and Cemile Çiftçi, who were detained on August 1, were released on judicial control measures on August 11.
For full lists of journalists in prison, the outlets shut down under State of Emergency as well as lists of associatons and foundations shuttered under caibnet decreese, click here.