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.

Supreme Court upholds convictions of 17 journalists

Supreme Court upholds convictions of 17 journalists

Supreme Court’s judgment, originally rendered in March, became official on 8 June


The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the convictions of 17 journalists in the case publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial,” where 25 of the 26 defendants were convicted of terrorism-related charges in 2018. The court overturned the convictions of eight defendants in the case.

The Supreme Court’s verdict, which was made public on 12 May by the pro-government daily Yeni Şafak, was uploaded on the National Judiciary Informatics System (UYAP) on 8 June 2020, finally becoming official.

The full text of the Supreme Court's judgment (in Turkish) can be accessed here.

In its unanimous verdict on 16 March 2020, the Supreme Court upheld the convictions of journalists Abdullah Kılıç, Bayram Kaya, Bünyamin Köseli, Cihan Acar, Cuma Ulus, Davut Aydın, Habip Güler, İbrahim Balta, Büşra Erdal, Hüseyin Aydın, Muhammed Sait Kuloğlu, Murat Aksoy, Erkan Acar, Mutlu Çölgeçen, Oğuz Usluer, Seyid Kılıç and Ufuk Şanlı. 

The court overturned the convictions of journalists Ahmet Memiş, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Ünal Tanık, Yakup Çetin and Yetkin Yıldız on the charge of “membership of a terrorist group,” saying that there had been an error in the classification of the offense and that the six journalists should have been charged with “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”

Ali Akkuş released, other requests for release rejected

The Supreme Court also overturned the conviction of Ali Akkuş, saying that “the defendant could not have known at the time of his employment with [the media outlet affiliated with] the movement that it would turn out to be an armed terrorist organization.”

While Akkuş was released from prison in March based on the Supreme Court’s judgment, his six co-defendants whose convictions were also overturned remain behind bars as the court rejected their requests to be released.

The Supreme Court also wrote in its judgment that Atilla Taş, who was originally convicted of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member,” should instead have been charged with “insulting the president” and “publicly degrading the institutions and bodies of the state.” 

The case file has now been sent to the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul for retrial.

Twenty-three of the 26 defendants in the case were convicted of “membership of a terrorist organization” at the final hearing of the trial on 8 March 2018. Two journalists, Murat Aksoy and Atilla Taş, were convicted of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” while one defendant was acquitted. The court had ruled to keep 19 jailed defendants behind bars pending appeal. 

The 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice upheld the trial court’s verdict on 22 October 2018, finalizing the convictions of Taş and Aksoy, as they were both given prison sentences under five years. Subsequently, Taş and Aksoy returned to prison in November 2018 to serve the remainder of their sentences.

In December 2018, the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals issued their judicial opinion of the case, seeking the affirmation of the convictions rendered in the case. The case file had been pending before the Supreme Court of Appeals since January 2019.