A lawsuit was filed against the former managing editors of Birgün Newspaper’s website, Barış İnce and Can Uğur, as well as two executives of the company publishing the newspaper, for reporting on the tweets from the Twitter account called “Fuat Avni”.
The indictment against Barış İnce, Can Uğur and the other two executives was completed on July 16, 2019 by Istanbul Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor.
For reporting on the tweets by “Fuat Avni” at a time when the conflict between the government and the Gülen surfaced, İnce and Uğur were charged for “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization without taking part in its hierarchical structure”.
In the indictment it was stated that İnce and Uğur “did not use the Bylock application”, “had no records in associations, companies with links to FETÖ or in Bank Asya” and “had made no contact with FETÖ’s senior leaders”.
In the indictment, the following statement about İnce and Uğur was especially noteworthy:
“It was seen that the suspects do not have hierarchical ties with the terrorist organization, and that they published numerous news stories against the organization in the past. ”
Despite all these, İnce and Uğur were charged with ““knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization without taking part in its hierarchical structure” as per Turkish Penal Code, Articles 220/7 and 314/2. Furthermore, the prosecutor requested a 50% increase in the sentence as per Anti-Terror Law, Article 5/1. Thus, he requested prison sentences of 7.5 to 15 years for İnce and Uğur.
The indictment was accepted by Istanbul 32. High Criminal Court on August 30, 2019.
First hearing of the trial took place at November 26th, 2019. Court board announced the interlocutory judgment and ruled to give time to the prosecutor in order to prepare the opinion as to the accusations and set the next hearing to March 5th, 2020. Court board requested both parties to present their defences and opinions as to the accusations.
The decision also ruled that an official request was to be made to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to determine whether or not the journalists were members of any chambers, associations or unions.
Another article ruled that an official request was to be made to the Istanbul Security Directorate to determine the suspects’ entries and exits of hotels in order to see if the people people they were with had any FETÖ junction.
The second hearing of the trial took place on March 5th, 2020. At the hearing, the court ruled to merge the case with another case against the defendant, journalist Barış İnce.
At the end of the hearing, the court ordered an investigation as to whether the journalists were members of trade unions, professional chambers and associations shuttered by decree laws during the State of Emergency issued after the military coup attempt of July 15th.
The third hearing was scheduled for April 14th, 2020. However, it was postponed to June 30th, 2020 owing to measures against the coronavirus pandemic in Turkey.
The fourth hearing was held on June 30th, 2020. In the second hearing, the president of the court had announced that the writs sent to certain state institutions about the journalists were answered.
Lawyer Tolgay Güvercin submitted to the court a petition concerning Barış İnce, about a separate file merged with the current file. Barış İnce said the following about this new file: “I can submit to the court the passwords of the Twitter accounts belonging to the news web site Express. Their old messages are still there. Or these may be demanded from Twitter”.
The court once again decided to demand information from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security about journalists, such as their membership of trade unions, professional associations or other bodies, and also as to whether any such organization had been closed down after the coup attempt of July 15th, 2016.
The fifth hearing of the trial took place on October 13th, 2020. The panel of judges had not changed. Prosecuted Journalists Barış İnce and Can Uğur and the executives of their newspaper attended the hearing, along with their lawyers Ali Deniz Ceylan and Tolgay Güvercin. The journalists and lawyers reiterated their request for acquittal.
The hearing prosecutor submitted his judicial opinion as to the accusations, where he demanded Barış İnce and Can Uğur to be acquitted from the charge of “membership of an armed terror organization” in the current file, and the separate file about İnce later merged with this file.
Lawyer Tolgay Güvercin stated, “It has been shown that our clients have no ties to the said organization”, demanding their acquittal.
The court ruled to acquit Can Uğur, Barış İnce and the two newspaper executives, stating that “the defendants did not commit the crime of ‘aiding an armed terror organization’.”
The court also ruled to acquit Barış İnce from the indictment later merged with the current file, on the charge of “membership of an armed terror organization.”
Press in Arrest is a database, monitoring, documentation and collective memory study of Press Research Association.
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