Supreme Court of Appeals also rules for Önder Çelik, Güray Öz, Musa Kart, Hakan Kara and Mustafa Kemal Güngör to be freed from prison 

The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals on 12 September 2019 overturned the convictions rendered in the trial of former Cumhuriyet staffers on the charge of “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”

The Chamber overturned the convictions against Akın Atalay, Orhan Erinç, Murat Sabuncu, Aydın Engin, Hikmet Çetinkaya and Ahmet Şık. The Chamber also ruled for a stay of execution concerning Önder Çelik, Bülent Utku, Güray Öz, Musa Kart, Hakan Kara and Mustafa Kemal Güngör. who were sentenced to less than five years in prison on the same charge and who returned to prison in April to serve the remainder of their sentences after their convictions were upheld in February by an appellate court. The Chamber ruled for the five imprisoned defendants to be released so as to prevent what might in the future entail a rights violation. The Chamber also ruled to lift the arrest warrant issued for Bülent Utku.

In accordance with the ruling, Çelik, Öz, Kart, Kara and Güngör were released from the Kandıra F Type Prison in the Kocaeli province late at night on 12 September 2019.

On 16 July 2019, the Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals had requested the reversal of the convictions against Orhan Erinç, Akın Atalay, Murat Sabuncu, Hikmet Çetinkaya, Aydın Engin and Ahmet Şık and the acquittal of all defendants except Şık. The Office of the General Prosecutor also said in their judicial opinion that the acquittal decision should apply to all other co-defendants in the case who were sentenced to less than five years in jail, except Emre İper. 

The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled in line with the judicial opinion by the General Prosecutor, overturning former Cumhuriyet staffers’ convictions on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization.”

The Chamber said that the elements of the “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” charge were not present in the cases and all should be acquitted except for Ahmet Şık, who was sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison on the same charge. The Chamber ruled that Şık should instead be charged with “legitimizing the acts of a terrorist group” and “denigrating the bodies and organs of the state of the Turkish Republic.”

The Chamber also ruled to impose travel bans on Güray Öz, Musa Kart, Hakan Kara, Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Önder Çelik and Bülent Utku.

The Chamber upheld the appellate court’s ruling concerning the conviction against Emre İper, a former accounting department employee with Cumhuriyet. İper remained in prison, serving the remainder of the 3-year sentence he was given on the “aiding a terrorist group” charge. 

Once the reasoned judgment by the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals is issued, the case will be sent back to the trial court, the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

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