Ruling to comply with the Supreme Court of Appeals judgment, trial court decides to issue an arrest warrant for Özdemir, who did not attend the hearing
CANSU PİŞKİN, ISTANBUL
The retrial of former Zaman columnists Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç, Mümtazer Türköne and editor Mehmet Özdemir got underway on 13 April 2021 at the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court.
The retrial was ordered by the Supreme Court of Appeals, which reversed four judgments and upheld three convictions and four acquittal decisions rendered in July 2018 in the “Zaman trial.”
The sentences Alpay, Bulaç and Türköne were given on the charge of "membership in a terrorist organization" were overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeals in September. The high court held that they should have been charged with "aiding a terrorist organization without being its member" under Article 220/7 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). The Supreme Court overturned Özdemir's acquittal, saying he should have been convicted of “membership in a terrorist organization” under TCK 314/2.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Alpay, Bulaç and Türköne and their lawyers were in attendance. Özdemir and his lawyer did not attend the hearing.
Addressing the court concerning the Supreme Court of Appeals judgment, Türköne demanded that the trial court comply with the judgment and rule for his acquittal and lift his judicial control measures.
Türköne’s lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu requested that the court comply with the Supreme Court of Appeals judgment.
Also demanding that the trial court comply with the Supreme Court of Appeals judgment, Alpay added: “I am being accused over the articles I wrote, in which I exercised my freedom of expression. I demand to be acquitted.”
Alpay’s lawyer Aynur Tuncel Yazgan also requested that the court comply with the Supreme Court of Appeals judgment. Yazgan said the Constitutional Court’s judgment concerning Alpay’s application found a lack of evidence against her client and added that in case the trial court decided to comply with the Supreme Court of Appeals judgment they will have to review the file to determine whether there is new evidence against her client in the current file.
Also demanding that the court comply with the Supreme Court of Appeals judgment, Bulaç rejected the new charge and asked to be acquitted.
Ruling in line with the requests of the three defendants and the prosecutor, the trial court unanimously decided to comply with the Supreme Court of Appeals’ reversal judgment.
The lawyers representing Alpay, Türköne and Bulaç requested a continuance to prepare their statements in response to the new accusation.
Issuing an interim ruling, the court decided to issue an arrest warrant for Özdemir, who did not attend the hearing, and rejected Türköne’s request for the lifting of the judicial control measures at this point. Also ruling to hear Hüseyin Gülerce, Binnaz Toprak, Ümit Erol and Zekeriya Tüzen as witnesses, the court set 9 September 2021 as the date for the second hearing of the retrial.
Eleven former columnists and editors of Zaman, which was closed in 2016 by the government following the 15 July coup attempt, were charged with “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order,” “membership in a terrorist organization," "terrorism propaganda" and "aiding a terrorist organization" in the Zaman trial. At the final hearing, held in July 2018, editor Mehmet Özdemir, columnists Lale Sarıibrahimoğlu, Nuriye Ural, İhsan Dağı and lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz were acquitted of all charges while columnists Ahmet Turan Alkan, Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç, Mümtazer Türköne and Mustafa Ünal and editor İbrahim Karayeğen were sentenced to prison for "membership in a terrorist organization."
Issuing its judgment on the “Zaman trial” on 24 September 2020, the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the convictions of Alkan, Ünal and Karayeğen and the acquittals of Sarıibrahimoğlu, Ural, Dağı and Cengiz while overturning the judgments concerning Alpay, Bulaç, Türköne and Özdemir.