Ali Ahmet Böken - “Membership of an Armed Terrorist Organization” Trial

The Republic of Turkey held the structure known as the Fethullah Gülen Congregation responsible for the military coup attempt of 15 July 2016. On 20 July 2016, the National Security Council determined that the military coup attempt “was initiated by FETÖ through its members within the Turkish Armed Forces”.

The structure, which was stated to have secretly organised within government agencies for years, was first described as a “terrorist organisation” by a court in 2014, and later in the recommendations of the National Security Council of 27 May 2016. The National Security Council, which formerly described the structure as an “illegal parallel structure”, named it the “Fethullah Terrorist Organisation and Parallel State Structure – FETÖ-PDY” in its July memorandum.

Following the attempted coup, investigations and trials were launched and orders for arrest and detention were issued for many individuals who were claimed to be “affiliated” with this structure. As part of these investigations, a large number of journalists and writers were placed in custody and/or detained in many provinces of Turkey due to allegations of “membership of Fethullah Terrorist Organisation (FETÖ)” and “knowingly or willingly aiding the organisation despite not being a member of FETÖ”. Investigations and prosecutions were carried out during the State of Emergency (OHAL) declared soon after the attempted coup.

Zaman newspaper, Samanyolu TV, Cihan News Agency and many other newspapers, television and radio channels and internet news portals were shut down on similar allegations by Statutory Decrees (KHK) that were put into effect without parliament’s approval.

Ali Ahmet Böken was one of the people who was investigated on charges of “membership of FETÖ”. Böken was detained as part of the investigation launched by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Ankara on 11 August 2016 while he worked as the deputy president of News and Sports Office and news coordinator at the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), the state-owned public broadcaster.

Böken was charged with “affiliation with the TRT branch of FETÖ/PDY”. The custody procedures at the Ankara Directorate of Security lasted for eight days. He was brought before the prosecutor’s office on 18 August 2016. The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Ankara referred him to the court on charges of “membership of FETÖ” and demanded his remand.

In his defensive statement at the 1st Criminal Court of Peace of Ankara on 18 August 2016, Böken stated that “he was not a member of FETÖ”, and “had no connections whatsoever with this organisation”. He stated that “he had made no efforts to recruit members to the organisation and consolidate its cadres in the corporation during his time at TRT”.

Following the questioning by the court, he was taken to the Sincan Closed High Security Prison in Ankara to be remanded in custody on charges of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” on 18 August 2016. The indictment concerning Böken was completed eight months after his detention on 18 April 2017.

The indictment asserted that Böken “was an active member of the media branch of the FETÖ terrorist organisation”. Several court rulings asserted that he had an active account with Bank Asya, which was claimed to be “the financial institution of FETÖ”. The indictment also asserted that “records of the ByLock application had been discovered on Böken’s mobile phone”. In the Court Of Cassation rulings, the ByLock application was defined as “a communication network developed for the use of FETÖ/PDY armed terrorist organisation members”.

The indictment also asserted that “FETÖ had infiltrated TRT with 400 reporters”. It was asserted that “the positions available in the news office had been filled with FETÖ terrorist organisation members once Böken, who was held responsible, had been appointed to the position of president of the news office”. The allegations concerning his activities at TRT were supported with seven witness statements against Böken. Witnesses stated that “Böken had played an active role in organisation’s structure within TRT,” and he “had enabled the TRT Haber channel to broadcast in line with the aims of the organisation”.

It was asserted that “TRT Music channel’s 2016 calendar, which was published and distributed in December 2015, had marked 15 July 2016 as a national holiday”. 15 July 2016 was the date of the military coup attempt.

The indictment charged Böken with “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” in accordance with Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code and Article 5 of the Law on Anti-Terrorism. The prosecution demanded that Böken be sentenced to imprisonment of between seven years and six months and 15 years. He had been in prison for about eight months when the indictment was completed.

The indictment was accepted by the 18th High Criminal Court of Ankara on 27 April 2017, one week after it was completed. The trial was overseen by the same court. During the trial process, Böken denied the witness statements against him. He stated that he had not risen through the ranks swiftly, but rather had reached his position by his own efforts and performance. He added that he “had not consolidated the organisation’s cadres within the corporation”, and “had not enabled broadcasts to be in line with the organisation’s aims”. He stated that he had not used the ByLock application and the contents of the ByLock messages did not belong to him. He then demanded his acquittal.

During the trial process, the prosecutor presented the opinion of the prosecution as to the accusations on 23 January 2018. The opinion asserted that Böken “had shaped TRT’s news and broadcasts in line with the aims of FETÖ”. It was also asserted that he “had used the Bylock and KakaoTalk applications”. It was asserted that similar to the Bylock application, “KakaoTalk was also been used as a communication network by people who are alleged to be members of FETÖ.”

The indictment demanded that Böken be sentenced to imprisonment of between seven years and six months and 15 years on charges of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. The court adjourned the hearing in order for the defensive statements to be prepared against the opinion of the prosecution as to the accusations. Böken was once more remanded in custody by the court.

The last hearing of the trial took place on 3 April 2018. The court ruled that Böken be sentenced to imprisonment of nine years and nine months on charges of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. The ruling asserted that Böken “had intensively used the ByLock application”. Witness statements also asserted that Böken “had been a member of the organisation”. The court ruled Böken to be remanded in custody.

Böken launched an appeal against the imprisonment sentence at the court of appeals.

The Constitutional Court Process

Ali Ahmet Böken made an application to the Constitutional Court on 31 May 2017 while the prosecution was on-going. The Constitutional Court launched an examination of Böken’s application after the ruling of the prison sentence.

Böken’s application asserted that his detention exceeded reasonable duration, the judges at the Criminal Court of Peace who gave the arrest order had not been independent and impartial, and prohibition of maltreatment and freedom of expression and press had been violated.

The Constitutional Court made its ruling on 12 December 2018. The court unanimously rejected all of Böken’s claims.

Press in Arrest is a database, monitoring, documentation and collective memory study of Press Research Association.
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