Court rules to send the file to the prosecutor and sets 12 January 2021 as the date for the next hearing
ÇİÇEK TAHAOĞLU, ANTALYA
The seventh hearing in the trial where local journalists in the Mediterranean city of Antalya are accused of “membership of a terrorist organization” took place on 25 September 2020 at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Antalya.
Journalists standing trial in the case are former Zaman newspaper and Cihan News Agency reporter Cihat Ünal, Zaman Antalya reporter Serhat Şeftali, Zaman reporters Osman Yakut, Özkan Mayda and Ömer Özdemir, Bizim Antalya news portal owner Olgun Matur, Zaman and Cihan News Agency reporter Kenan Baş, Antalya Gazetesi owner Ali Orhan and Editor-in-Chief Hasan Yavaşlar.
Defendants Mayda, Ünal, Yavaşlar, Özdemir and Adem Akyürek were in attendance in the courtroom with their lawyers.
The indictment issued in March 2017 against 22 people, out of whom 10 are journalists, claimed that the news outlets Bizimantalya.com, Antalya Gazetesi and Cihan News Agency, which were all closed down through a statutory decree, “formed the media leg of FETÖ [the Fethullahist terrorist organization] in Antalya” and “served to the interests of the organization.”
Debunked ByLock claim
The presiding judge announced that the Antalya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office had submitted its ByLock report concerning Özkan Mayda. ByLock is an encrypted mobile messaging app allegedly used by members of what the government calls “FETÖ/PDY.”
Former Zaman reporter Mayda said that he had already told the court that the phone was not his and reminded that former Zaman editor Recai Morkoç, who was the owner of the phone, was previously heard in the courtroom. Mayda’s lawyer Münip Ermiş added that it was proven that the phone in question belonged to Morkoç. Morkoç had been detained and convicted based solely on this evidence as part of his trial by the 10th High Criminal Court. He noted that it was wrong that the ByLock report was sent to the panel as if it was a piece of evidence against Mayda.
Addressing the court next, former Zaman reporter Serhat Şeftali’s lawyer asked the court to lift the measures against his clients’ personal assets.
The court ruled to lift the measures imposed on Şeftali’s personal assets. Saying that they considered the statements given in response to the ByLock report as a “tip-off,” the panel ruled to send the minutes of the hearing to the case file against Morkoç. Also ruling to send the file to the prosecution for the final opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 12 January 2021.
A number of local journalists in Antalya were arrested in 2016 following the 15 July 2016 coup attempt. Nine of the journalists were jailed pending trial. An indictment was prepared against 22 people, including former reporters for Zaman daily and Cihan News Agency in Antalya. The journalists spent between 9 months and 1,5 years in pre-trial detention as part of the case. During the proceedings, the file of Zaman’s former Antalya Regional Representative Tuncer Çetinkaya was separated and he was sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization.” Two other journalists’ files were later merged with the case.