Police raided the homes of Sözcü newspaper’s owner and employees on May 19, 2017 for allegedly commiting crimes for FETÖ.
An arrest warrant was issued for the owner Burak Akbay who was not at home. İzmir correspondent Gökmen Ulu, the web site’s managing editor Mediha Olgun and finance director Y.Y. were detained. After one week of detention, Y.Y. was released pending trial. Mediha Ongun was held in custody until September 22, 2017 and Gökmen Ulu until November 8, 2017.
First indictment dated September 26, 2017, accused Burak Akbay of “managing an armed terrorist organization and spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization”, and Mediha Ongun, Gökmen Ulu and Y.Y. of “knowingly and willingly aiding a terror organization without being part of its hierarchical structure”.
İstanbul 37. High Criminal Court accepted the indictment. It was stated that Sözcü published a story titled “Sözcü located Erdoğan” on July 15, 2016, the day of the coup attempt, pointing to the President’s whereabouts on that day. It was claimed that this was tantamount to “providing guidance to assassination attempts, and aiding and abetting the criminal offense”. Numerous news stories and columns from Sözcü newspaper were mentioned in the indictment under the charges of “knowingly and willingly aiding a terror organization without being part of its hierarchical structure”.
Meanwhile Chief Public Prosecutor had prepared a separate indictment accusing Sözcü’s editor-in-chief Metin Yılmaz and contributors Mustafa Çetin, Necati Doğru, Yücel Arı and Mustafa Emin Çölaşan of “knowingly and willingly aiding a terror organization without being part of its hierarchical structure”, to be merged with first indictment. The same court accepted in December 2018 this second indictment which mentioned the previous indictment and tip-off petitions among the evidence.
At the hearing on January 18, 2019, the court ruled the merger of the two files, and scheduled the first hearing of the merged trial for March 12, 2019. However, the hearing was held on March 15, 2019. Before the hearing on April 18, 2019, the prosecutor submitted his judicial opinion requesting prison sentences. The 7. hearing of the case was held on October 28, 2019. In consideration of the changes introduced by the judiciary reform package, the court sent the file back to the public prosecutor for examination. The trial was adjourned until December 27.
In the decisive hearing of the case, Necati Doğru and Emin Çölaşan were sentenced to 3 years 6 months 15 days of imprisonment. Metin Yılmaz and Mustafa Çetin were sentenced to 3 years 4 months and Bekir Gökmen Ulu and Yücel Arı were sentenced to 1 year 13 months of imprisonment. All the sentences were given on the grounds of “knowingly and willingly aiding FETÖ/PDY armed terrorist organisation”. Mediha Olgun was acquitted. Burak Akbay’s case was separated.
Court of Appeal Proceedings
The newspaper’s lawyers applied to the court of appeal to have the prison sentences overturned.
The appeal process was conducted by Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, 27. Criminal Chamber. In its verdict on October 8th, 2020, the Chamber upheld the district court’s prison sentences for Gökmen Ulu, Metin Yılmaz, Emin Çölaşan, Mustafa Çetin, Necati Doğru and Yücel Arı.
The Chamber stated that the district court’s verdict was in keeping with the law.
Court of Cassation Proceedings
The appeal process continues at the Court of Cassation.
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