Mümtazer Türköne, an academic and columnist for the shuttered Zaman newspaper, was arrested in a series of raids targeting former Zaman journalists and columnists in late July. A court imprisoned him pending trial a few days later on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organization.”
According to an indictment submitted to the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court in April, Türköne, along with 29 other defendants, faces three aggravated life sentences on charges of “attempting to overthrow the government, the constitutional order and Parliament,” as well as a prison term of up to 15 years for “being a member of a terrorist organization.”
Türköne and other defendants appeared before a judge for the first hearing of their trial on September 18-19, 2017. The court ruled to keep all imprisoned defendants behind bars and lifted the State of Emergency restrictions on access to lawyers.
At the end of the second hearing of the Zaman trial on December 8, 2017, the court released three employees of the Zaman advertising department and ruled to keep all other imprisoned defendants, including Türköne, behind bars.
During the third hearing of the trial on April 5, 2018, the prosecutor submitted his final opinion, seeking aggravated life imprisonment and an additional 15 years in prison for “violating the Constitution” and “membership in an armed terrorist organization” for nine of the 11 columnists and journalists standing trial in the case, including Türköne. Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered the continuation of detention of all imprisoned defendants in the case and adjourned the trial until May 10-11 for the final defense statements.
The fourth hearing was held on May 10 and 11 at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
On the first day of the hearing, Türköne was one of only two defendants who gave their defense statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion. Türköne’s objections to the prosecutor’s final opinion on procedural grounds made its mark on the session. Türköne told the court that there were discrepancies between the prosecutor’s final opinion submitted during the previous hearing on April 5 and the latest version of the final opinion handed out to the defendants in CDs to base their final defense statements on. The points raised by Türköne were also highlighted by other defendants who addressed the court later in the hearing.
In his final defense statement, Türköne provided detailed explanations regarding his newspaper columns that are held as evidence against him in the indictment. Noting at the end of his address to the court that he has not finished his defense, Türköne requested additional time to prepare a further statement concerning seven more of his articles on which the accusations are also based.
In its interim decision at the end of the two-day hearing, the court ruled to release columnist Ali Bulaç and Zaman’s former Responsible Managing Editor Mehmet Özdemir from pretrial detention, while ordering the lifting of Şahin Alpay’s house arrest.
The court ordered the continuation of the detention of the remaining imprisoned defendants in the case, including Mümtazer Türköne, and set June 7 and 8 as the dates for the next hearing.
At the end of the fifth hearing, held on June 7-8, the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul ordered the continuation of Türköne, Alkan, Karayeğen and Ünal’s detention. One of the judges on the panel gave a dissenting opinion on that ruling. Recalling Ali Bulaç’s release at the end of the previous hearing on grounds that the nature of the allegations against him could be subject to change, the judge asserted that all jailed defendants in the case should have been released based on the principle of legal equality.
The court set July 5 and 6 as the dates for the next hearing in the case.
Announcing its verdict at the end of the July 5-6 hearing, the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul found six of the defendants — including Türköne — guilty of the “membership in a terrorist group” charge, handing down prison sentences of various lengths between 8 years and 9 months and 10.5 years, while acquitting five defendants of all charges.
The court gave the lengthiest sentences in the trial to columnist Türköne and Ankara representative-columnist Mustafa Ünal, sentencing each to 10.5 years in prison. The panel also ruled for the continuation of Türköne and Ünal’s detentions pending the appeal process.
Türköne was also on trial in a separate case in which he was charged in connection with an article published on February 4, 2016. On July 4, 2017, Bakırköy 2nd High Criminal Court, which oversaw the trial, sentenced Türköne to four years and two months in prison for “threatening President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan” in the said column. The court initially sentenced Türköne to five years in jail and then reduced it to four years and two months, taking into consideration Türköne’s “good behavior” during the trial process.
Türköne attended the hearing from the Silivri Prison he is currently held via SEGBİS video conferencing system.