The prosecutor requests prison terms between 5 to 10 years for eight newspaper employees on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member”

CANSU PİŞKİN, İSTANBUL

The “Sözcü trial” resumed on 18 April with Sözcü newspaper executives, employees and writers appearing before the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul for allegedly “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”

At the seventh hearing of the trial, monitored by P24, defendants Necati Doğru, Mustafa Çetin, Yücel Arı, Gökmen Ulu, Mediha Olgun, Yonca Yücekaleli and Metin Yılmaz were in attendance with their lawyers. Emin Çölaşan participated from Ankara via the video-conferencing system SEGBİS. 

Prosecutor requests Akbay’s case to be separated

Early in the hearing, the prosecutor announced that the 17-page final opinion he drafted has been added to the case file a day before the hearing, on 17 April. The final opinion seeks jail sentences between 5 to 10 years for defendants Emin Çölaşan, Necati Doğru, Gökmen Ulu, Metin Yılmaz, Mustafa Çetin, Yücel Arı and Yoca Yücekaleli.

The prosecutor also asked the court to convict Mediha Olgun of the “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” charge and requested for her to benefit from effective remorse provisions because of her cooperation throughout the investigation and trial procedures.

He then went on to request the case file into the newspaper’s former publisher Burak Akbay, who has not made his defense statement yet, to be separated from the current case.

Referring to the defendants’ defense statements throughout the trial, the prosecutor argued in his final opinion that “harshly criticizing FETÖ [Fethullah Gülen terrorist organization] in the newspaper, even openly insulting it, does not constitute proof of not supporting FETÖ.”

In response, defendants and their representing lawyers asked for a continuance to review the final opinion. Lawyer İsmail Yılmaz said that because the evidence in the case file was incomplete, the final opinion cannot be accepted. Yılmaz asked the court to withdraw its interim decision in the previous hearing in which it rejected the defense lawyers’ requests to expand the investigation.

Red notice alert to be issued for Burak Akbay

However, the court once again refused the request to expand the investigation, since they said, the evidence in question did not lend further credence to the case. The judges said the court will wait for the execution of Akbay’s arrest warrant and that procedures for the issuing of a red notice for Akbay would be implemented.

Granting additional time for the defendants and their lawyers to prepare their final defense statements, the court set 14 June as the date for the next hearing.

Newspaper publishes excerpts from final opinion before the hearing

The prosecution’s final opinion was leaked to the press before the defendants and their lawyers were able to hear it in the courtroom. Nor was the defense notified of the final opinion through the online judiciary network National Judiciary Informatics System (UYAP).

The final opinion was published in the pro-government Sabah newspaper on the day of the hearing.

After the court announced its interim decision, lawyer Celal Ülgen reacted to the leaking of the final opinion to the press before they had a chance to review it, telling the court that they should be investigating the leak.

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