Expression Interrupted

Journalists and academics bear the brunt of the massive crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey. Scores of them are currently subject to criminal investigations or behind bars. This website is dedicated to tracking the legal process against them.

No verdict in media trial, court to hear more statements in March

No verdict in media trial, court to hear more statements in March

No verdict was announced at trial of journalists Murat Aksoy, Atilla Taş and 24 others as defense statements could not be completed. The trial was adjourned to March 7-8

The 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul heard on February 22 and 23 the final defense statements of 26 defendants in one of the largest ongoing media cases publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial.” The two days of hearings were monitored by P24. Thirteen defendants made their defense statements on those two days, at the end of which the court adjourned the trial to 7-8 March to hear the remaining statements.

Defendants, a vast majority of whom are journalists, include prominent public figures and newspeople such as T24 columnist Murat Aksoy, former singer and newspaper columnist Atilla Taş and former Habertürk TV news coordinator Oğuz Usluer among others.

The number of the defendants in the case dropped from 29 to 26 on the first day of the hearing, when the court ruled that the files of two suspects at large, Said Sefa and Bülent Ceyhan, as well as that of Emre Soncan, who is jailed pending the conclusion of the trial, are separated from this case. Sixteen of the defendants are still under detention pending the verdict while eight have been released under judicial control terms during previous hearings.

Congratulations for finding a terrorist in me’’

All defendants who spoke during the sessions on February 22 and 23 said the prosecution had failed to submit any evidence to prove the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization. “I examined the prosecutor’s remark several times and couldn’t find anything to defend myself against,” said Ahmet Memiş, former news coordinator of news websites Rotahaber and Haberdar.

Former reporter of the shuttered Aksiyon magazine Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu said he was accused of working for a magazine for its alleged links with the Fethullah Gülen movement. “So, how come this magazine was allowed to be published legally for so many years” he asked. He also stressed that many prominent writers, including former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, wrote for the magazine in the past.

Pop singer-turned columnist Atilla Taş expressed once again his sense of stupefaction at being linked to terrorism. “I congratulate the prosecution for finding a terrorist in me,” he said.

Meanwhile, lawyers stressed that allegations were based on “perceptions” instead of concrete facts. “A new term has entered the terminology, which is ‘creating perceptions in the name of an organization.’ This term completely disregards concrete evidence,” Kalyoncu’s attorney Hacer Kutay said.

“In our opinion, the name of the organization in which the defendants are accused of being members should be TTO: Tweetist Terrorist Organization,” said attorney Barış Topuk, who represents former Zaman journalists Habib Güler and Halil İbrahim Balta. “There are no weapons or bombs in the case, only news articles and tweets,” he said.

The court is expected to announce its verdict after hearing the final defences on March 7 and 8. The prosecutor demanded that all but three defendants, Murat Aksoy, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu and Muhterem Tanık, to be charged with “membership in FETÖ/PDY terrorist organization,” requesting the rest to be charged with “aiding the FETÖ/PDY terrorist organization without being a part of its hierarchical structure.”

The prosecutor also requested the release of Çulhaoğlu on account of the changed accusation. Editor-in-chief of the nationalist Türk Solu (Turkish Left) magazine, Çulhaoğlu is currently in detention on coup-related charges.