First hearing of a “coup” trial in which imprisoned journalists Ahmet and Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak, are charged with “participating” in the coup attempt of July 15, 2016, was completed on Friday, June 23. At the end of the five-day hearing, the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court rejected lawyers’ requests for release, ordering that six imprisoned suspects including the Altan brothers and Ilıcak remain in pre-trial detention.
Ilıcak, a 73-year-old journalist and political commentator, Yakup Şimşek, the marketing director of the shuttered Zaman newspaper, Fevzi Yazıcı, the daily’s arts director, and advertiser Tibet Murat Sanlıman, the only suspect who is not in pre-trial detention, attended the court session on Friday. Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül, a former Police Academy lecturer, attended the session via SEGBİS video conferencing system from Silivri Prison.
The prosecutor demanded all six imprisoned defendants remain in pre-trial detention. In an interim decision, the panel of judges of the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court ruled to keep the six defendants in pre-trial detention, citing “severity of charges”, “existence of strong suspicion of crime” and “possibility that the suspects might flee” as grounds.
The court ruled that the next hearing of the case would be held on September 19, 2017. It also decided that two witnesses who testified against some of the defendants be heard.
The case is the first trial of journalists accused of participating in the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016.
Several international rights groups, including Amnesty International, Article 19, PEN International, Index on Censorship, the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales and the International Senior Lawyers Project sent representatives to monitor the trial. CHP MP Sezgin Tanrıkulu and HDP MP Garo Paylan were among the audience in the courtroom.
Ilıcak and Altan brothers are formally accused of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order”, “attempting to overthrow the Parliament” and “attempting to overthrow the government,” charges carrying three aggravated life sentences. They also face an additional prison term of 15 years on the charge of “committing crimes on behalf of a terrorist organization without being a member.”
Another 13 defendants are accused, in addition to coup charges, of “being a terrorist group leader” or “being a terrorist group member.” Defendant Tibet Murat Sanlıman, on the other hand, is charged with “willingly and knowingly aiding a terrorist organization.”
In addition to Altan brothers and Ilıcak, former Zaman editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanlı, Emrullah Uslu, Tuncay Opçin, former Zaman columnist Abdülkerim Balcı, Şemseddin Efe, Osman Özsoy, Faruk Kardıç, Fevzi Yazıcı, former Zaman executive Mehmet Kamış, Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül, Yakup Şimşek, former Today’s Zaman editor-in-chief Bülent Keneş, Ali Çolak and Tibet Murat Sanlıman are indicted in the case.
Fevzi Yazıcı, Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül and Yakup Şimşek, as well as the Altans and Ilıcak, are imprisoned while Tibet Murat Sanlıman is free awaiting conclusion of the trial. The remaining 10 defendants are sought for arrest.
Columnist Özgür Amed released from prison
Özgür Amed, a former columnist for the shuttered Özgür Gündem daily, was released on June 24, after more than two years in prison.
Amed was arrested in Diyarbakır on February 21, 2015 for attending a march in protest of the killing of 34 Kurdish villagers in an air strike near Roboski village. He was sent to prison two days later.
Pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem daily was temporarily closed down in August 2016, on the grounds that it spread “propaganda for a terrorist organization.” In October, the newspaper was shuttered permanently with an emergency decree.
The number of journalists in prison serving a conviction or awaiting trial went down to 166 with Amed’s release. Full list of imprisoned journalists can be viewed here.
None released in Özgür Gündem trial
Fourth hearing of Özgür Gündem trial in which writers and journalists Aslı Erdoğan, Necmiye Alpay, Ragıp Duran, Filiz Koçali, İnan Kızılkaya, Eren Keskin, Bilge Oykut, Zana Kaya and Kemal Sancılı face charges of “terrorism” and “disrupting state unity” was held on June 22 at Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court.
During the hearing, writer Aslı Erdoğan asked the court to lift her travel ban, saying she has been given several awards but she cannot attend award ceremonies to receive them due to the ban. Linguist Necmiye Alpay made the same request. The two imprisoned defendants of the case, Kemal Sancılı, the owner of the shuttered Özgür Gündem daily, and İnan Kızılkaya, its responsible editor, requested that they be released.
The court refused to rule for release of the imprisoned defendants but agreed to lift travel bans on Erdoğan and Alpay. It also lifted judicial control measures imposed on Eren Keskin.
The next hearing of the case will be held on October 31, 2017.
Özgür Gündem voluntary editors appear before judge
The fourth hearing of another Özgür Gündem trial was held on June 21 at Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court.
Defendants in the case are journalists Ayşe Düzkan and Ragıp Duran, who each symbolically edited Özgür Gündem for a day as part of a solidarity campaign in the summer of 2016, former Özgür Gündem columnists Mehmet Ali Çelebi and Hüseyin Bektaş, and former editor-in-chief of the daily, Hüseyin Aykol.
None of the defendants attended the hearing. The court adjourned trial until September 14.
Düzkan, Duran, Çelebi and Bektaş are charged with “terrorism propaganda,” facing up to 7.5 years in jail, while Aykol are charged with “terrorism propaganda” and “targeting those who are involved in the fight against terrorism.”
For a full list of journalists or press workers in Turkish prisons serving a conviction or awaiting trial under arrest click here.