Bayram Kaya, a former reporter for Zaman and the short-lived Yeni Hayat daily, was arrested by the police days after the failed coup attempt of 15 July 2016 as part of an operation targeting journalists working for media outlets affiliated with the banned movement led by Fethullah Gülen, billed by the government as “Fetullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ)”.
The indictment seeks up to 15 years in jail for Kaya on the charge of “membership in FETÖ terrorist organization.” The prosecutor accuses Kaya of “attempting to legitimize the crimes committed by the [terrorist] organization, garner public support for conspiracy cases conducted by the organization, delegitimize the fight against the organization and manipulate the public opinion to support the coup attempt to be conducted by the organization” through three books he authored and Twitter posts.
Kaya is one of the 29 defendants cited in the indictment. His co-defendants include journalists from a wide range of media outlets including the shuttered Zaman newspaper, Cihan news agency, Aksiyon weekly, Meydan newspaper, Habertürk TV and the state broadcaster TRT.
The full text of the indictment (in Turkish) can be accessed here.
Following the first hearing of the trial held on 31 March 2017, the Istanbul 25th High Criminal Court agreed to release Kaya pending trial but he was summarily rearrested upon the prosecutor’s objection to his release. The judges who ordered the release of Kaya and 20 other co-defendants were swiftly suspended from their job and reassigned to other courts outside Istanbul.
Six defendants, Atilla Taş, Murat Aksoy, Ali Akkuş, Davut Aydın, Bünyamin Köseli and Cihan Acar, were subsequently released in the later stages of the trial, while Kaya and others were ordered to remain behind bars.
At the court hearing on 6 February 2018, the prosecutor submitted his final opinion of the case, demanding up to 15 years in jail for all but three defendants — Murat Aksoy, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu and Muhterem Tanık — for “FETÖ membership.” Kaya was charged on the basis of his tweets, the fact that he had worked for Zaman and Yeni Hayat dailies, Bank Asya bank account transactions, and for allegedly downloading the encrypted messaging application ByLock, which the authorities say was used exclusively by members of the Gülen movement.
During the court hearing on 22-23 February 2018, Kaya presented his final defense to the court, responding to the accusations against him. He denied having downloaded the ByLock application, saying a technical expert opinion he presented to the court refutes the claim.
The court announced its verdict in the case at the end of the final hearing held on 7-8 March 2018. Kaya, along with 10 other co-defendants, was sentenced on the charge of “membership in an armed organization” to 6 years and 3 months in prison. The court ruled for the continuation of detention of the imprisoned defendants in the case pending the appeal process.
In October, the appeals against prison sentences given to 25 defendants in the case were rejected by an appellate court. The 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice rendered its decision on 22 October. The court made the ruling without a public hearing despite defense lawyers’ requests for a hearing. The appellate court also ruled for the continuation of detention of all jailed defendants in the case.
Convictions against the journalists are now expected to be taken to the Supreme Court of Appeals.
Kaya is currently jailed in Istanbul’s Silivri Prison.