The Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals says lengthy prison sentences for four columnists should be upheld

The Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals submitted its opinion on trial of 11 former columnists and editors of Zaman newspaper, closed down under an emergency decree in 2016, on coup and terrorism charges.

The opinion, submitted on 23 December 2019 to the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals that will review the case, maintains that prison terms given to Zaman’s former columnists Ahmet Turan Alkan, Mümtazer Türköne, Mustafa Ünal and night editor İbrahim Karayeğen on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization” should be upheld. Convictions of columnists Şahin Alpay and Ali Bulaç, on the other hand, should be overturned as they should have been charged with “knowingly and willingly aiding the FETÖ/PDY terrorist organization without being part of its hierarchical structure,” the opinion says.

The prosecutor also asks the top court to uphold decisions for acquittal of former Zaman columnists Lale Sarıibrahimoğlu, Nuriye Ural, İhsan Dağı and Orhan Kemal Cengiz, while challenging the acquittal of news editor Mehmet Özdemir.

If the Supreme Court of Appeals rules along the lines of the prosecutor’s opinion, Ahmet Turan Alkan and İbrahim Karayeğen will need to return to prison to serve the remainder of their sentences.

Full text of the document (in Turkish) can be viewed here.

The trial of 11 former columnists and editors of Zaman newspaper on charges of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order,” “membership of a terrorist organization,” “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization,” and “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” was concluded on 6 July 2018.

The trial court, the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court, ruled for the acquittal of columnists Lale Sarıibrahimoğlu, Nuriye Ural, İhsan Dağı, editor Mehmet Özdemir and lawyer and columnist Orhan Kemal Cengiz of all charges, while columnists Şahin Alpay, Ahmet Turan Alkan, İbrahim Karayeğen, Mümtazer Türköne, Mustafa Ünal and Ali Bulaç were convicted of “membership of a terrorist organization” and given prison terms varying between 8 years and 9 months to 10.5 years.

The court sentenced Mümtazer Türköne and Mustafa Ünal to 10.5 years each and ruled for their detention to continue pending appeal. İbrahim Karayeğen was sentenced to 9 years in prison on the same charge while Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç and Ahmet Turan Alkan were each given 8 years and 9 months. The court also ruled for the release of Alkan and Karayeğen, after nearly two years in pre-trial detention, pending the outcome of the appeal.

The Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court’s verdict was upheld by an appellate court on 25 June 2019, following which the case was taken to the Supreme Court of Appeals.

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