Ufuk Şanlı, a business journalist for a number of media outlets including Zaman and Vatan dailies and a contributor to Al-Monitor, was arrested on July 27 as part of a sweeping crackdown on journalists suspected of being followers of Fethullah Gülen, an exiled preacher whom the government accuses of maintaining a “parallel state structure” and an armed terrorist organization, “FETÖ/PDY.”
In the indictment against them, Şanlı and 28 others were formally charged with “membership of an armed terrorist organization,” carrying a prison term of up to 15 years.
The first hearing of the trial was held in late March 2017. At the end of the five-day hearing, the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul decided to release 21 of the 26 suspects under detention while ruling to keep Şanlı and four other suspects in detention. However, all of the 21 suspects were rearrested before they left the prison compound late at night on March 31. Thirteen suspects whose release was sought by the prosecutor were arrested as part of a new investigation, this time on coup charges, and eight others were detained upon a successful appeal from the prosecutor against their release.
The second hearing ıf the case was held on April 27, 2017, at İstanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse. All three judges of the trial court and the prosecutor of the case were suspended after the court decided to release 21 of the 26 suspects under detention at the end of the first hearing.
The new judges of the case decided at the end of the second hearing to keep all detained defendants under detention and adjourned the trial until July 6, 2017.
At the end of the trial, on March 8, 2018, the court convicted 25 journalists standing trial in the case, including Şanlı, of terrorism-related charges. Şanlı and 11 other co-defendants were convicted of “membership in an armed terrorist organization” and sentenced to 7.5 years in prison. The court said in its verdict that their “actions and intent required a higher sentence than the lower limit set by the law.” The court also ruled for the continuation of detention of the imprisoned defendants in the case.
In October, the appeals against prison sentences given to 25 defendants in the case were rejected by an appellate court. The 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice rendered its decision on 22 October. The court made the ruling without a public hearing despite defense lawyers’ requests for a hearing. The appellate court also ruled for the continuation of detention of all jailed defendants in the case.
Convictions against the journalists are now expected to be taken to the Supreme Court of Appeals.
Şanlı is still behind bars in Istanbul’s Silivri Prison.