Tunca Öğreten, a former news editor for news portal Diken, was arrested along with five other journalists in early hours of December 25, 2016, reportedly in connection with publication of leaked e-mails of Energy Minister Berat Albayrak. Police searched his home for three hours before arresting Öğreten.
Pro-government Sabah newspaper reported that Öğreten and other journalists were arrested over their links with Redhack, a hacker group which claimed responsibility for leaking Albayrak’s e-mail messages. It said in addition to the six journalists, arrest warrants were issued for three more people, including Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel.
Öğreten and the five journalists were kept in police custody for a record 24 days, following which Öğreten, along with DİHA editor Ömer Çelik and BirGün employee Mahir Kanaat, was jailed pending trial on the charge of “terrorist group membership.” The remaining three journalists were released pending trial.
According to court documents, Öğreten was accused of membership of the banned Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army/Front (DHKP/C). Öğreten denied the accusation, said he never met a DHKP/C member in his life, and that the charges against him all stem from the fact that he was added to a Twitter messaging group, in which Albayrak’s e-mails were reportedly shared with members, without his knowledge.
On March 1, 2017, Öğreten married his girlfriend, Minez Bayülgen, in a short ceremony at Silivri Prison.
In July, an indictment was prepared into the six journalists. It accuses Öğreten of “preventing o disrupting an IT system, amending or destroying data” and “committing a crime on behalf of a terrorist organization while not being a member.”
The e-mails on which Öğreten reported were stolen and leaked by a hacker group affiliated with the “DHKP-C armed terrorist group,” the prosecution says. It also says that Öğreten formerly worked for the Taraf newspaper, which it describes as “a media organ of the FETÖ/PDY” terrorist organization. Based on these reasons, the prosecution says “the suspect has participated in the crime committed in line with the aims and ideologies of these organizations while not being member of either and has committed a crime on their behalf.”
The indictment into the six journalists can be read here (in Turkish).
The first hearing of the trial into the six journalists took place at the 29th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on October 24, 2017. The court ruled for Ömer Çelik’s release pending trial and the continuation of Öğreten and Kanaat’s detentions.
Öğreten was released pending the conclusion of the trial at the end of the second hearing, on December 6, when he gave his defense statement, rejecting the accusations against him. The court also released Kanaat pending the conclusion of the trial at that hearing, imposing judicial control measures on both journalists, including overseas travel bans.
The next hearing in the case was held on March 20, 2018, at the 29th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Öğreten, Kanaat, Okatan and the defense lawyers were in attendance at the hearing, monitored by P24.
Announcing its interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court decided to keep an international travel ban on all six defendants in place, while lifting a judicial control measure under which Öğreten and Kanaat had been required to regularly report to a police station.
The trial was adjourned until 13 September 2018, awaiting an expert report on digital materials confiscated from the defendants.
Öğreten, Kanaat, Okatan and Sargın and their lawyers were in attendance at the hearing on 13 September, while Çelik and Yoksu did not attend.
Addressing the court during the hearing, Öğreten requested for his computer and his mobile phone that had been confiscated during the investigation to be returned. He also requested for his international travel ban to be lifted.
Defense lawyer Sevgi Kalan Güvercin, who is representing Öğreten and Kanaat, demanded that the judicial control measures imposed on the defendants be lifted.
The prosecutor said it was not clear in the case file whether forensic images from digital equipment have been taken or not, and demanded that the court reject those requests.
Issuing an interim ruling following a brief recess, the court rejected the defendants’ requests and ordered for Yoksu and Çelik to be brought before the court for the next hearing and adjourned the trial until 8 January 2019.
Öğreten, Okatan, Kanaat and their lawyers were in attendance at the 8 January hearing, during which Çelik and Yoksu addressed the court via SEGBİS.
The prosecution requested the continuation of the judicial control measures imposed on the journalists. Addressing the court following the prosecutor, the journalists requested for their digital equipment confiscated during the investigation to be returned, their international travel ban to be lifted, and to be granted exemption from personal attendance in court.
In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court rejected the requests and adjourned the trial until 16 April 2019, awaiting an expert report concerning the digital equipment.
“Insulting the president” case
Öğreten is also a defendant — alongside writer Perihan Mağden and Yurt daily editors Mehmet Çağlar Tekin and Orhan Şahin — in a separate case, facing up to more than 4 years in prison for “insulting the president.”
The charges against the four defendants stem from a news report that included comments from Mağden, a former columnist for the shuttered Nokta magazine, about a police raid on the magazine in September 2015. The report first appeared on Diken and was re-printed by the Yurt daily.
The fifth hearing of this trial took place on 23 May 2017 at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.
At the end of the 13th hearing of the case, on 10 January 2019, the court convicted Öğreten and Mağden of “insulting the president” and fined each TL 7,000. The Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance did not defer the sentences imposed on Mağden and Öğreten. Journalists Şahin and Tekin were acquitted.