Seven of the nine defendants in the case convicted of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member,” publisher Burak Akbay’s file separated
The trial of nine columnists, executives and staff members of Sözcü daily concluded on 27 December 2019 at a criminal court in Istanbul. The 37th High Criminal Court convicted seven of the nine defendants of “knowingly and willingly aiding the terrorist organization FETÖ/PDY without being its member,” handing down prison terms between 2 years and 1 month and 3 years, 6 months and 15 days.
This was the 11th hearing in the case. Columnist Emin Çölaşan and reporter Gökmen Ulu, who do not reside in Istanbul, addressed the court via the courtroom video-conferencing network SEGBİS. The newspaper’s publisher, Burak Akbay, who lives abroad, was not present. The rest of the defendants as well as defense lawyers were in attendance in the courtroom.
The prosecution told the court they reiterated their final opinion of the case, submitted ahead of the 7th hearing of the case, in April.
After hearing the last words of the defendants, the court announced its verdict.
Columnists Emin Çölaşan and Necati Doğru were each sentenced to 3 years, 6 months and 15 days while the daily’s Editor-in-Chief Metin Yılmaz and the editor of Sözcü’s online edition Mustafa Çetin were each sentenced to 3 years and 4 months. The online edition’s editorial coordinator Yücel Arı, reporter Gökmen Ulu and accounting department employee Yonca Yücekaleli were each sentenced to 2 years and 1 month in prison.
The court ruled to separate the file against Akbay, whose defense statement has still not been taken. An arrest warrant the court issued for Akbay is still in place. Mediha Olgun was acquitted.
During the 10th hearing, the defense lawyers had requested a review of the case file and the prosecutor’s final opinion in light of the amendment introduced in Article 7 of the Law on the Fight Against Terrorism (TMK) with the judicial reform package. The final opinion was seeking prison sentences between 5 to 10 years for Emin Çölaşan, Necati Doğru, Gökmen Ulu, Metin Yılmaz, Mustafa Çetin, Yücel Arı and Yoca Yücekaleli. The prosecutor recommended a lesser sentence for Olgun based on effective remorse provisions, citing her cooperation throughout the investigation and the trial. Referring to the defendants’ statements throughout the trial, the prosecutor had argued in his final opinion that “harshly criticizing FETÖ in the newspaper, even openly insulting it, does not constitute proof of not supporting FETÖ.”