Expression Interrupted

Journalists and academics bear the brunt of the massive crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey. Scores of them are currently subject to criminal investigations or behind bars. This website is dedicated to tracking the legal process against them.

Nuriye Ural

Nuriye Ural

Journalist and columnist Nuriye Ural, best known for the interviews she conducted with various public opinion leaders, was arrested at 6 a.m. on July 27, 2016, as part of an operation into 47 columnists and executives of Zaman newspaper, shut down under State of Emergency.

She was then imprisoned pending trial on July 30, 2016, under an order from the Istanbul 4th Criminal Judgeship of Peace and sent to Bakırköy Prison.

In her police interrogation, she said she had written against the coup, that she was perplexed because she was asked about an article 20 years ago which was being presented as evidence for her link to the coup and that she had no connection to the FETÖ/PDY organization, which is the name given to the Fethullah Gülen network by the Turkish government, which claims that this group was behind the July 15, 2016, coup attempt.

She was released on October 12, 2016, on the grounds that there was “a possibility that the nature of the alleged crime” might change.

An indictment was finally prepared into Ural and 29 others in the case on April 10, 2017. She is only mentioned twice in the 64-page document, which includes an article she wrote on December 24, 2013, titled “How to prevent corruption?” along with a number of other articles by other writers which the prosecution presents as “evidence” that the columnists were trying to “legitimize the purposes and methods of FETÖ.”

The second mention of her name is in a paragraph where it is stated that Ural and nine other former Zaman columnists “carried out their duties within the hierarchy of the FETÖ/PDY terrorist organization with articles that complemented the organizational goal and purpose, both with those articles that are openly an element of crime and those who don’t appear to include any criminal elements.” The prosecution says Ural and the other writers wrote articles that served as “preliminary preparation” for the military coup attempt.

The prosecution wants Ural and others to be punished on charges of "membership of the FETÖ/PDY terrorist organization, forming the media leg of the group, attempting to overthrow the Constitutional order, the parliament and the government."

The indictment was accepted by the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court. There are a total of 31 defendants in the case, including former Zaman executive Adil Gülçek, whose file was also merged with the case later. The first hearing took place on September 18-19, 2017, at a courtroom on the Silivri Prison grounds, where the defendants, 22 of whom had been imprisoned for 418 days, appeared before a judge for the first time.

At the end of the two day session, the court ruled to lift restrictions on access to lawyers -- which previously allowed a visit of only one hour per week -- but also ruled to keep the 22 imprisoned defendants in pre-trial detention.

Ural and other defendants who are not in prison gave their defense statements in the second hearing, held on December 8, 2017. The court ruled at the end of the hearing to release three imprisoned defendants pending further trial. It also ruled that an international travel ban imposed on defendants who are not jailed, including Ural, will remain in place.

During the third hearing in the case, held on April 5, 2018, the prosecutor submitted his final opinion, seeking Ural's conviction on the charge of “aiding an armed terrorist organization without being part of its hierarchical structure” as per TCK 220/7 while requesting that she is acquitted of other charges in the indictment.

Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered the continuation of detention of all imprisoned defendants in the case and adjourned the trial until May 10-11 for the final defense statements.

The fourth hearing was held on May 10 and 11 at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

In its interim decision at the end of the two-day hearing, the court ruled to release columnist Ali Bulaç and Zaman’s former Responsible Managing Editor Mehmet Özdemir from pretrial detention, while ordering the lifting of Şahin Alpay’s house arrest. Ordering the continuation of the detention of the remaining imprisoned defendants in the case, the court set June 7 and 8 as the dates for the next hearing.

At the end of the fifth hearing, held on June 7-8, the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul ordered the continuation of detention of four of Ural's co-defendants in the case -- Ahmet Turan Alkan, Mümtazer Türköne, İbrahim Karayeğen and Mustafa Ünal. One of the judges on the panel gave a dissenting opinion on that ruling. Recalling Ali Bulaç’s release at the end of the previous hearing on grounds that the nature of the allegations against him could be subject to change, the judge asserted that all jailed defendants in the case should have been released based on the principle of legal equality.

The court set July 5 and 6 as the dates for the next hearing in the case.

In its verdict announced at the end of the July 5-6 hearing, the court convicted six of the journalists standing trial of “membership in a terrorist organization” while acquitting five of the defendants.

The 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul acquitted Nuriye Ural of all charges.