Court rejects requests for release in “terrorist organization membership” case where 29 defendants, mostly journalists, are on trial
The third hearing of the trial where 29 people, including journalist Murat Aksoy and former pop-singer and columnist for the shuttered Meydan daily Atilla Taş, stand accused of “membership in a terrorist organization” was heard on July 6 at the Istanbul 25th High Criminal Court.
The panel of judges announced its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, rejecting requests for release from the 13 defendants who are imprisoned in the trial. The trial was adjourned until October 24.
The third hearing in the trial was held with a new panel of judges -- changed for the third time in three hearings.
The presiding judge started the hearing by reading out the documents received by the court from various government agencies. A document from the National Police Department claimed that the encrypted chat application ByLock -- allegedly used by the members of the group believed to be behind the July 15 coup attempt -- had been downloaded on the mobile phones of defendants Bülent Ceyhan, Davut Aydın, Mutlu Çölgeçen, Oğuz Usluer, Seyit Kılıç and Ufuk Şanlı in 2014. Aydın, Usluer and Kılıç who later testified in the trial denied ever having downloaded ByLock.
Aydın said he had not owned a smartphone at the time, and Usluer said that an earlier report from the National Police Department had established that no trace of the software had been found on his phone. He said the allegation, which was included in the initial indictment, was now being brought up again after it was refuted in the official correspondence from the police department.
The defendants who testified in the trial denied accusations of “membership in a terrorist organization” and requested their release. Davut Aydın, who is imprisoned for the duration of the trial, said he is a scoliosis sufferer and that he his weight had fallen to 44 kilograms; a result of his condition worsened by respiratory issues. He demanded a report from the Council of Forensic Medicine to document that he cannot remain in prison in this condition.
Earlier in the trial, in the first hearing heard on March 31, the prosecutor had asked for the release of 13 of the suspects. The İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court ruled to release the 13 and eight others from prison. However, a new “coup” investigation was launched into the 13 individuals for whom the prosecutor had asked the court to release before they could leave prison and the other eight were rearrested after an objection filed against their release was swiftly accepted. The judges on the panel and the prosecutor were suspended following that hearing.
A new indictment into the 13 defendants prepared by İstanbul Chief Prosecutor İrfan Fidan accused them of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” and “attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey”. The first hearing in this new trial is slated for Aug. 16 - 17.
Defendants Ahmet Memiş, Bayram Kaya, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Cuma Ulus, Habib Güler, Halil İbrahim Balta, Hanım Büşra Erdal and Muhammet Said Kuloğlu were arrested again after an objection to the 31 March release ruling was accepted. The other defendants -- Davut Aydın, Emre Soncan, Mutlu Çölgeçen, Ufuk Şanlı and Ünal Tanık -- were not released at any point in the trial.
Two other defendants -- Bülent Ceyhan and Said Sefa – remain at large. Another defendant, Muhterem Tanık, the spouse of suspect Ünal Tanık, is also being tried but she is not under arrest.
Former Zaman journalist Ali Akkuş, who was released on March 31 and later arrested again on charges of attempting to overthrow the government, was released pending trial in the new investigation.
ECtHR demands defense from Turkey in Deniz Yücel Case
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has asked Turkey to present its defense regarding an application to the Court lodged on behalf of Die Welt Turkey correspondent Deniz Yücel.
The European Court has informed Veysel Ok, the lawyer who represents Yücel, that the Turkish government was given until October 24 to present its statement. The court letter also noted that the government of Germany could also present an opinion to the court, should it choose to do so. Yücel is a dual citizen of Germany and Turkey.
Journalists in minister e-mails case to appear in court in October
The Istanbul 29th High Criminal Court accepted an indictment into six journalists -- three of whom are in prison -- who reported on the e-mails of Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak that were leaked by a group that calls itself RedHack.
Lawyer Yaman Akdeniz tweeted that the first hearing in the trial is scheduled for October 24, 2017. Akdeniz also said that the court, while it accepted the indictment, rejected an objection to the imprisonment of the three suspects in the investigation; former editor of the Diken news website Tunca Öğreten, BirGün newspaper's employee Mahir Kanaat and DİHA news manager Ömer Çelik.
ETHA News Manger Derya Okatan, DİHA reporter Metin Yoksu and Yolculuk newspaper’s owner Eray Sargın were released in the investigation pending trial.
The indictment accuses the six journalists of “preventing an information system, disrupting it, destroying or amending data” as well as terrorism charges.
Kurdish PEN member in police custody
Writer Hasip Yanlıç, a member of the shuttered Kurdish Writers Association and the Kurdish PEN, was arrested in a police raid of his home on July 4.
Police seized books, including journalist Hasan Cemal’s “Delila,” during the search of Yanlıç’s house. His lawyer said Yanlıç was arrested on the ground of “propaganda for a terrorist organization” and that an order of confidentiality was imposed on the investigation file.
Rudaw TV and K24 employees in custody
On July 6, Rudaw TV employee Ayhan Çetin and K24 employee Mehmet Türe were taken into custody by officers from the Counterterrorism Unit (TEM) of the Police Department in Ankara.
The two journalists were taken to a TEM detention center. Information on the reasons for their detention was not immediately available.
Özgürlükçü Demokrasi employees taken into custody
Leyla Yıldız and Murat Karakaş, who both work for the newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, were taken into custody in Adana on July 4. The two journalists were released after one night in detention under judicial control measures.
Yıldız and Karakaş were taken into custody in Adana’s Ceyhan district for being in possession of various magazines, deemed to be related to organizations classified as terrorist groups by Turkey. They were referred to a court on charges of “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization” by prosecutors.
Sendika.org applies to Guinness World Records
The critical news website Sendika.org, which was blocked for the 49th time on July 4 by the Information Technologies and Communications Board (BTK), has filed an application to be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as “the most blocked and censored website.”
Previously, the website of the DİHA was blocked 48 times by Turkish authorities. DİHA closed its website completely after the agency was shut down under a government decree.
Sendika.org is now accessible at Sendika50.org, following the 49th decision to block access to it.