Atilla Taş, a former singer and a columnist for the shuttered Meydan daily, was arrested on 31 August 2016 and was sent to prison pending trial by a court on 3 September for “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”
The prosecutor seeks up to 15 years in jail for “membership in a terrorist organization.” Taş, along with 20 other journalists who are co-defendants in the same case, was released after first court hearing held on March 27-31 in Istanbul, only to be immediately rearrested, this time as part of a new investigation in which he was charged with “attempting to overthrow the government and the constitutional order.” He was jailed pending trial as part of the new investigation two weeks after his arrest.
The second hearing of the terrorism case against Taş was held on 27 April 2017 with a new panel of judges and a prosecutor as the former judges and the prosecutor of the case were suspended from duty following the release decision at the end of the March hearing. Only a small number of journalists were allowed to attend the second hearing of the trial.
The next hearing was held on 6 July 2017.
As for the “coup” case, the first hearing of the trial was held on 16-17 August 2017. The court ruled at the end of the hearing that the case, in which Taş is on trial alongside 12 other co-defendants, is merged with the “FETÖ media leg trial.”
Taş was released pending the conclusion of the trial at the end of the next hearing of the merged case on 24 October 2017.
The next hearing in this trial was held on 3-4 December 2017, when none of the defendants was released. At the end of the hearing on 6 February 2018, the court decided to release Halil İbrahim Balta, a former finance desk reporter for the shuttered Zaman daily on health grounds. Also during that hearing, the prosecutor submitted his final opinion, demanding prison terms for all but three defendants — Murat Aksoy, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu and Muhterem Tanık — for “membership in a terrorist organization.” The prosecutor demanded that Taş and three other defendants who were released in earlier hearings be re-arrested based on the finalized charge against them.
Taş presented a brief final defense statement at the following hearing that was held on 22-23 February, expressing once again his sense of bewilderment at being linked to terrorism. “I congratulate the prosecution for finding a terrorist in me,” he said. The trial was adjourned until March 7-8 for the completion of the remaining final defense statements.
The court announced its verdict at the end of the 7-8 March hearing, giving prison terms to 25 defendants, including Atilla Taş, on terrorism charges. Taş was sentenced to 3 years 1 month and 15 days in prison for “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization without being part of its hierarchical structure.” He was free pending the appeal process but was subject to a travel ban.
Regional court upholds sentence
On 22 October 2018, the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice upheld the sentences, thus making the trial court’s verdict final as regards Taş, since prison sentences less than five years cannot be appealed further once they are upheld by an appellate court.
On 9 November, Taş was imprisoned to serve the sentence upheld by the appellate court. He was taken into custody at his home in Istanbul and brought to the Istanbul Courthouse. From there, he was first sent to the Metris Prison. He was transferred to the Silivri Prison later that day.
Taş had remained in pretrial detention in Silivri for around 14 months as part of the case before being released on 24 October 2017 pending the conclusion of the trial.
Taş was released from prison on 8 February 2019 on probation.
Supreme Court overturns conviction
In March 2020, the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the convictions of eight defendants in the case publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial,” including Atilla Taş. In its unanimous judgment, the Supreme Court held that Atilla Taş, who was originally convicted of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member,” should instead have been charged with “insulting the president” and “publicly degrading the institutions and bodies of the state.”
The Supreme Court’s judgment became official on 8 June 2020, when it was finally uploaded on the National Judiciary Informatics System (UYAP).
Taş and his co-defendants Ahmet Memiş, Ali Akkuş, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Ünal Tanık, Yakup Çetin and Yetkin Yıldız appeared before the Istanbul 25th High Criminal Court on 4 November 2020 for their retrial, ordered by the Supreme Court of Appeals. The court decided to comply with the Supreme Court of Appeals' reversal judgment. The court rejected Taş’s request for his international travel ban to be lifted "due to the ongoing paperwork concerning the defendant in the file.” The next hearing will be held on 31 March 2021.