An arrest order was issued for Ali Ünal, a former columnist at the shuttered Zaman Newspaper, under the scope of an investigation on ex-columnists and managers of the newspaper, based on allegations of “leading a terrorist organization”, namely “FETÖ / Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization - PDY / Parallel State Structure.”
Ünal was taken into custody in the Eşme district of Uşak on August 11, 2016. After five days in custody, he was arrested upon a ruling of Uşak Second Criminal Court of Peace, on charges of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” and “establishing or managing a terrorist organization.”
Uşak Public Prosecutor’s Office completed a 300-page indictment against him on September 28, 2017. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was mentioned in the indictment as “the injured party.” Uşak Second High Criminal Court accepted the indictment, which requested two aggravated life sentences and an additional prison sentence of 29.5 years. The indictment cited as evidence Ünal’s 17 articles published in Zaman Newspaper on various dates and the opinions he expressed on a variety of TV discussion programs.
The first hearing of the case was held on January 4, 2018. At the first hearing, Ünal made his defense for the 17 articles in question, asked for his release, but was rejected. The court ordered the continuation of his detention and adjourned the trial until February 27, 2018.
At the second hearing held on February 27, 2018, Ünal stated that he did not receive instructions from Gülen and members of the organization, and that his name did not appear at any level of the organization.
The fourth hearing was held on July 18, 2018. At this hearing, stating her opinion as to the accusations, prosecutor requested that Ünal be sentenced to 15 to 20 years in prison on charges of “attempting to abolish the constitutional order”, and “establishing or managing an armed terrorist organization.” The trial was adjourned until September 5, 2018.
At the fifth hearing, the new prosecutor assigned to the case reiterated the opinion as to the accusations and requested that Ünal be sentenced.
Ünal asked for additional time for defense. The trial was adjourned until November 14, 2018.
Ünal was not brought to court in any of the hearings. He attended the hearing through the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS, from prison.
In the final hearing, Ünal was sentenced to 19 years and 6 months in prison for “being a member of a terrorist organization.” His lawyers filed an appeal against the verdict to the court of appeal.