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.

Prosecutor seeks aggravated life sentence for Ali Ünal

Prosecutor seeks aggravated life sentence for Ali Ünal

Court rules to keep former Zaman columnist Ali Ünal in pretrial detention, adjourns trial until September


Former Zaman columnist Ali Ünal, in prison for two years on “coup” and "terrorism" charges, appeared before a court in Uşak on 18 July for the fourth hearing of his trial.

P24 monitored the hearing at the Uşak 2nd High Criminal Court.

Yeni Akit columnist Nurettin Veren testified against Ünal during the hearing, after which the prosecutor submitted his final opinion.

The prosecutor requested that Ünal be given aggravated life imprisonment for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order,” as per article 309 of the Turkish Penal Code, as well as an additional prison term of up to 20 years under Article 39. 

The prosecutor also demanded that Ünal is remanded in prison.

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled for the continuation of Ünal’s detention and adjourned the trial until 5 September 2018.

Ünal, who has been in pretrial detention since August 2016, addressed the court via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS from the Buca Prison during the hearing.

Yeni Akit columnist Nurettin Veren, who testified via SEGBİS, claimed that Ünal was among top level leaders of what the government bills as “FETÖ,” an acronym for “Fetullahist Terrorist Organization.” Veren said Ünal served as an aide to Fethullah Gülen, whom the government accuses of orchestrating 2016’s failed coup attempt.

Responding to Veren’s testimony, Ünal said he rejected all allegations. He said Veren’s claims were baseless and false and added that he has never had secret meetings with Gülen nor taken any orders from him. Ünal also said he was not Gülen’s advisor.

Noting that he spoke in nearly 1,000 conferences, all of which were public events, Ünal said that he was standing trial because of his thoughts and ideas. “I only wrote newspaper columns,” Ünal said.

Two books written by Ünal were then submitted to the court as evidence against him. Ünal’s lawyer Ayşe Sueda Ünal addressed the court next. She said there was no ban in place for the books in question.

“My client’s right to a fair trial is being violated. His name was not mentioned in the main FETÖ indictment,” the lawyer also said.

Noting that most of the defendants in the main Zaman trial in Istanbul, which concluded on 6 July, have been released, the lawyer then called on the court to take this into account in their judgment concerning Ünal’s case.

The lawyer also added that witnesses should be heard in the courtroom and that failing to observe this rule constituted a violation of the right to a fair trial.

The prosecutor then submitted her final opinion of the case, seeking aggravated life sentences for Ünal on the separate coup charges of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order,” “attempting to overthrow the parliament” and “attempting to overthrow the government” and an additional prison term of up to 20 years under Article 39 of the Turkish Penal Code, which covers "assisting a crime." The prosecutor then merged aggravated life sentence charges under Article 309, as it encompasses other offences. Ünal was originally charged with participating in the coup attempt of July 2016 as well as "leading a terrorist organization" in the indictment.

Responding to the prosecutor’s final opinion, Ali Ünal told the court that he rejected the accusations and said the case file did not include even one evidence to prove the allegations. Ünal and his lawyer requested additional time to prepare the final defense statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion.

The court then adjourned the trial until 5 September 2018.