Attorney Mustafa Kemal Güngör, a Cumhuriyet Foundation board member, was detained by police on October 31, 2016 as part of the investigation into Cumhuriyet writers and executives.
The Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office in a statement after the arrests said that the Cumhuriyet Foundation executives were being investigated “for supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party(PKK)/Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) and Fethullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure (FETÖ/PDY)” and in connection with allegations that the newspaper had published reports seeking to legitimize the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. The statement said those detained were accused of “committing a crime on behalf of PKK/KCK and FETÖ/PDY without being member.” A confidentiality order was imposed on the investigation also at this time.
Güngör and the other executives and journalists detained as part of the probe were referred to the Istanbul 9th Criminal Judgeship of Peace, with the prosecutor demanding they be imprisoned pending trial. The prosecutor in his referral claimed that for the past three years the Cumhuriyet newspaper “obscured the truth through manipulation, acted in line with the purposes of terrorist organizations FETÖ/PDY and PKK/KCK and published stories that aimed to stir internal chaos and render the country unmanageable.”
On November 5, Güngör and eight others were arrested on charges of “conducting activities on behalf of a terrorist organization while not being a member” by a ruling of the Istanbul 9th Criminal Judgeship of Peace.
An indictment that came much later accused Güngör of “helping a terrorist organization while not being a member” and “abuse of trust,” demanding between 9.5 to 29 years for him.
As evidence, the indictment said that his phone records showed communications with four individuals who used ByLock, the alleged secret communications app of the “FETÖ/PDY” organization, which the Turkish authorities say was behind the July 15, 2016 coup attempt — and one person who was being investigated for suspected links with the Gülen network.
The prosecution states that Güngör acted together with those who were elected to the board of Cumhuriyet in 2013 to make a “radical change in the newspaper’s editorial policy.” The prosecution says board members are legally liable for the newspaper’s editorial policy.
An additional charge for Güngör, who is a member of the Board of the Directors of the Cumhuriyet Foundation, is “making loans to a company with a high debt risk” and that he caused the company to lose profits through the sale of property. The prosecution seeks between two to 14 years for these charges.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), in response to a an application from Güngör and the other Cumhuriyet writers and executives, has demanded a formal response from the Turkish government about allegations of rights violations during the custody and pre-trial detention processes of the Cumhuriyet writers; setting a deadline for October 2, 2017.
The first hearings in the case took place between July 24 – 28, 2017 in a trial being heard by the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court.
In his court statement, Güngör said: “Not even the Spanish Inquisition has seen such a state of law.” He said a legal provision referred to in the indictment had been canceled by the Constitutional Court. “We are accused on the basis of legislation that is no longer valid.”
Güngör said he started working as a lawyer for Cumhuriyet in 1992. “I was elected as a board member at the Cumhuriyet Foundation on February 18, 2014. Currently, I am not being accused on the basis of any concrete action, but only because of my titles as a board member.”
“Those who have launched this trial know that Cumhuriyet or its writers would never help a terrorist organization. Apparently, they have decided to accuse us, to arrest us, to try us and to torture us. But we will not submit in the face of cruelty, fear and unlawfulness.”
He said as a Cumhuriyet reader of 43 years, he had first heard of Fethullah Gülen from articles by Hikmet Çetinkaya, penned 35-40 years prior. “Not only that, I have also defended the newspaper and Hikmet Çetinkaya as legal counsel in dozens of trials initiated by Fethullah Gülen against the Cumhuriyet newspaper.”
The lawyer recalled that the prosecutor who led the criminal investigation, Murat İnam, is also on trial on FETÖ-related charges; facing life in prison without the possibility of parole. “The prosecutor has been taken hostage,” he said.
He said Cumhuriyet’s editorial policy cannot be a subject of interest for the prosecution. “What’s more, Cumhuriyet newspaper’s editorial policy hasn’t changed,” he said.
The full text of Güngör’s defense statement (in Turkish) can be read here.
The court, in its interim ruling released at the end of the five-day trial on July 28, released Güngör and six others pending trial, on the condition of judicial control, which consists of a ban on traveling abroad.
The next hearing of the trial is scheduled to take place on September 11, at a courtroom inside the Silivri prison compound. The presiding judge said the court plans to complete the trial by end of the year.
You can read full indictment into Cumhuriyet journalists and executives here (in Turkish).