Reversing the conviction on the grounds of misjudgment due to incorrect assessment of evidence, the Chamber sent Alkan’s file to the trial court
CANSU PİŞKİN, ISTANBUL
The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals has overturned its previous judgment upholding the conviction of former Zaman columnist Ahmet Turan Alkan on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.” Ruling that Alkan should stand trial on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization without being part of its hierarchical structure,” the Chamber sent Alkan’s file to the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court for a retrial.
Ruling on the “Zaman trial” on 24 September 2020, the Supreme Court of Appeals had upheld the sentences given to Alkan and his co-defendants Mustafa Ünal and İbrahim Karayeğen on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.” Reviewing the Chamber’s judgment following an objection filed by Alkan’s lawyer, the Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals sent the file to the Chamber on 12 February 2021, requesting a correction of the judgment, stating that Alkan had criticized the “FETÖ armed terrorist organization” on many occasions; that he did not have any administrative duties in the Zaman newspaper; and that there was no evidence in the file showing that he was a “member” of the organization other than the articles he wrote. The General Prosecutor’s Office held that Alkan should have been charged with “aiding” the organization.
Based on the General Prosecutor’s opinion, the Chamber reviewed the judgment and decided to reverse its previous decision to uphold Alkan’s sentence on the grounds of misjudgment due to an incorrect assessment of the evidence. The judgment, rendered unanimously on 18 March 2021, said the appeal by the defendant’s lawyer was deemed appropriate. The high court’s judgment was sent to the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court.
At the final hearing of the “Zaman trial,” held in July 2018, Ahmet Turan Alkan, Mustafa Ünal, İbrahim Karayeğen, Mümtazer Türköne, Şahin Alpay and Ali Bulaç were convicted of “membership in a terrorist organization.” Editor Mehmet Özdemir, columnists Lale Sarıibrahimoğlu, Nuriye Akman, İhsan Dağı and lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz were acquitted. Alkan, who was sentenced to 8 years and 9 months in prison, and editor Karayeğen, who was sentenced to 9 years in prison, were released pending the outcome of the appeal process.
On 24 September 2020, the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the sentences given to Alkan, Ünal and Karayeğen and the acquittals of Sarıibrahimoğlu, Akman, Dağı and Cengiz while reversing the convictions of Türköne, Alpay and Bulaç on the grounds that their actions constituted the crime of “aiding a terrorist organization without being part of its hierarchical structure” and ordering a retrial. The Chamber also overturned the acquittal of Özdemir, ruling that he should have been convicted of "membership in a terrorist organization."
The retrial of Türköne, Alpay, Bulaç and Özdemir began on 13 April 2021 at the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court.