Abdullah Kılıç was a columnist for the now-closed Meydan newspaper.
He graduated from the Department of History at Trakya University in 1996.
He started working as a journalist at the now-closed Zaman newspaper. He was the editor-in-chief of the weekend supplement of Zaman newspaper. He then worked at Radikal newspaper. One year later, he joined Haber Türk TV. He produced “Manşet” programme broadcasted on this channel. He started working at Show TV in 2013. He then started writing columns at the now-closed Meydan newspaper in April 2015.
Zaman and Meydan newspapers, where Kılıç had worked at, were shut down by a Statutory Decree issued as part of the State of Emergency rule declared following the military coup attempt on 15 July 2016. During the state of emergency period, the government shut down many media outlets by statutory decrees that were put into effect without the parliament’s approval.
Kılıç was placed in custody on 25 July 2016 due to allegations that “he was affiliated with FETÖ media structure” as part of the investigation launched by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul. He was detained on 29 July 2016 on the charge of “membership of an armed organisation”. Kılıç was taken to the Silivri Closed High Security Prison.
Kılıç spent approximately six months in prison awaiting the indictment to be prepared. The indictment that was completed on 16 January 2017 charged him with “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. The prosecutor demanded that Kılıç be sentenced to imprisonment of between five years and 10 years.
Kılıç was released pending trial at the first hearing of the trial on 31 March 2017. However, he was detained again as part of a new investigation before his release from prison. The custody procedures lasted for 14 days. He was detained again on 14 April 2017 on charges of “attempting to destroy the constitutional order” and “attempting to destroy the government”.
The second indictment charged him with “attempting to destroy the constitutional order” and “attempting to destroy the government”. The prosecution demanded Kılıç be sentenced to two aggravated life sentences.
The two indictments were merged.
At the end of the trial, Kılıç was sentenced to imprisonment of six years and three months on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” on 8 March 2018.
The court of appeals approved the prison sentence on 22 October 2018. The Court of Cassation finalised the sentence on 16 March 2020.
Kılıç was released after completing his sentence on 11 September 2020.
The Republic of Turkey held the structure known as the Fethullah Gülen Congregation responsible for the military coup attempt of 15 July 2016. The National Security Council determined on 20 July 2016 that the military coup attempt “was initiated by FETÖ via 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 the similar allegations by Statutory Decrees (KHK) that were put into effect without the parliament’s approval.
In this context, Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Bureau of the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul launched an investigation against 89 journalists and media workers on allegations of “membership of FETÖ/PDY”. The names of people who were placed in custody and the details of the investigation were communicated through the public broadcaster Anadolu Agency, and published on the website of Sabah newspaper.
Although many journalists were detained under the same investigation in July 2016, they stood trial based on different indictments. For example, Mümtazer Türköne, Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç and many other journalists stood trial as part of the “Zaman Newspaper Court Case”, whereas Nazlı Ilıcak, Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Bülent Keneş, Mehmet Kamış and many other journalists were tried within the case publicly known as the “Subliminal Coup Messages Court Case”.
Abdullah Kılıç, a writer for the now-closed Meydan newspaper, was one of the people under investigation.
Kılıç was placed in custody on 25 July 2016. He was taken to the Gayrettepe Public Security Branch Office of the Istanbul Directorate of Security. The custody procedures lasted for three days. Kılıç was then taken to the Çağlayan Courthouse.
He was referred to the prosecutor’s office on 29 July 2016. In his testimony, he stated that he had worked at the now-closed Meydan newspaper, but quit after President Tayyip Erdoğan’s statement, “This is my last warning; persons who remain in this structure will pay the price”. He stated that he wrote and critiqued the scandals of the organisation. He added that he was a democratic journalist and he criticised the government’s practices but also praised its rightful acts.
After his statement was taken, Kılıç was referred to the court to be remanded on charges of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”, and “knowingly and willingly aiding the organisation”. However, the 3rd Criminal Court of Peace of Istanbul rejected the charge of “knowingly and willingly aiding the organisation”. The ruling was based on the justification that “the two crimes cannot be committed simultaneously”. However, Kılıç was detained on 29 July 2016 on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. He was taken to the Silivri Closed High Security Prison.
He spent approximately six months in prison awaiting the indictment to be completed. The indictment concerning Kılıç, one of 29 defendants, 27 of whom were journalists, was completed on 16 January 2017.
The indictment concerning Kılıç, columnist at the now-closed Meydan newspaper, one of 29 defendants, 27 of whom were journalists, was completed by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul on 16 January 2017. The indictment consisted of 196 pages.
112 pages of the indictment listed allegations against the “Fethullah Terrorist Organisation / Parallel State Structure (FETÖ-PDY)”. This part was identical with the texts in indictments prepared for similar cases.
The allegations against Kılıç started on page 105 of the indictment. The first part listed the media organisations where Kılıç had worked.
The indictment also listed his columns published in Meydan newspaper on 16 October 2015, 20 October 2015, 20 November 2015, and 26 January 2016. The indictment listed the following headlines as crimes: “The mastermind’s project to destroy the ‘Congregation’!”, “The ones who don’t benefit from the fortunes of the Congregation are fools”, “RTÜK [Radio and Television Supreme Council] and the Opposition! Suit yourselves!”, “Brigands Will Not Rule The Satellite!”, “Enough Fuat Avni, Stop Fooling the Public!”, and “Write, draw or speak, if you dare!”.
It was asserted that the now-closed Meydan newspaper where the columns were published was an “institution for FETÖ propaganda”. The indictment asserted that Kılıç “discredited the efforts against the organisation that attempted the coup by describing them as illegal and cruel” in his columns. It was asserted that “expressions resembling Kılıç’s statements were frequently used in the written and visual media organs of the organisation”. It was asserted that Kılıç “had been changing perceptions to the benefit of the organisation”.
The indictment listed the following social media outputs of Kılıç:
. “Expected development! Following the military coup in Egypt, some writers once again started saying ‘you too will end up like this’ to Erdoğan.”
. “The boogieman once again takes wild guesses and talks nonsense; he somehow has 50.5 per cent of people to fool!”
. “I swear he looks like a boogieman. He only comes out at night.”
. [The defendant] shared the tweet “Cemil Bayık speaks to the Times: ‘We want to take down Erdoğan and the AKP’” via the account named BBC Turkish @bbcturkce and added his comment: ‘We will not let democracy be drowned by the terrorist organisation’.”
. “Fuat Avni! Reveal yourself! Are you from the congregation? Are you a member of the National Intelligence Organisation? Who or what are you? Are you at the palace? Or at the Presidential Mansion?”
. “The congregation should have no police, soldiers or prosecutors of its own!! The police, military or prosecutors should also have no congregations but should have a conscience.”
. “The traitors were ordered to shoot the public. Here is the heinous correspondence.”
The indictment also asserted that Kılıç has an active bank account with Bank Asya, which is alleged to be one of the “financial institutions of FETÖ” in many court rulings. It was asserted that “certain amounts of money were deposited in the bank account starting from January 2014, which was empty as of December 2013”. It was asserted that “depositing money in the account was carried out in response to Fetullah Gülen’s call following the investigation into Bank Asya”.
Kılıç leaving his position as the deputy chief editor at HaberTürk TV to start working at a different television channel was also cited as evidence.
The indictment demanded that Kılıç be sentenced to imprisonment of between five years and 10 years in accordance with Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code on the charge of “membership of an armed organisation”. It was also demanded that Kılıç “be deprived of the enjoyment of certain rights” in accordance with Article 53 of the Turkish Penal Code.
The indictment was accepted by the 27th High Criminal Court.
The trial involving 29 people, 27 of whom were journalists including Abdullah Kılıç, a columnist for the now-closed Meydan newspaper, as defendants commenced with the first hearing at the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 27-31 March 2017. Kılıç had been in prison for eight months when he was first brought before a judge.
Attorney Ali Deniz Ceylan stated that the president of the court at the hearing had ruled for the detention of Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Atilla Taş, Murat Aksoy and Mutlu Çölgeçen while he served as the judge at the 1st Criminal Court of Peace of Istanbul.
Stating that a judge who had served during the investigation process cannot serve during the trial process under the current law, attorney Ceylan demanded the president of the court’s recusal. The demand was rejected. Ceylan then demanded a judicial disqualification. The panel of judges rejected the demand for judicial disqualification on the grounds of it being “non-procedural.”
At the first hearing, the president of the court requested the defensive statements of the defendants before the indictment was read.
Attorney Gülşah Kaya said: “I want the indictment to be read”. The president of the court interrupted while Kaya was speaking. Upon this, Kaya said: “A hearing does not proceed with this sort of back and forth exchange. I make a demand, and you make a decision. You at least have the responsibility to summarise the indictment”. However, the president of the court did not respond to the demands.
The indictment was not read. However, the statement “the indictment was read” was written in the court minutes. Attorney Ömer Kavili demanded “Let the minutes reflect that this is a false statement”. The panel of judges did not respond. Spectators applauded Kavili. In response to applause, the president of the court reacted by saying: “Who do you think you’re applauding?” Following the identification of the defendants, the defendants including Kılıç made their defensive statements.
Kılıç stated that “he was a victim of the process of perception management”, and added, “I was doing my job as a journalist. I chased the news. I demand justice, not mercy.”
Kılıç, who stated that he was the first journalist to prepare a news report on the stealing of the examination papers added, “I wrote at Meydan that there should be no prosecutor or military personnel who is a member of the congregation. I quit afterwards since my contract had expired. I have been working as a florist since April 2016.”
The final hearing of the trial took place on 31 March 2017. The prosecutor for the hearing demanded that 13 journalists be released pending trial. The court added eight more journalists to the 13 people to be released pending trial. The court ruled that 21 journalists including Abdullah Kılıç be released.
A series of developments took place on 31 March 2017 when the ruling was declared, and the early hours of the following day.
Cem Küçük, who wrote columns for newspapers known to have adopted a pro-government publishing policy stated the following in his social media account: “Every prosecutor and judge will be discharged from duty who ordered the release of apparent FETÖ members. This is the state’s definitive judgment. Everybody should know it.” He also stated the following: “The Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors started to take action. God willing, the traitors will not be set free.”
The prosecutor for the hearing objected to the release of eight journalists, Hanım Büşra Erdal, Ahmet Memiş, Bayram Kaya, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Cuma Ulus, Habip Güler, Halil İbrahim Balta and Muhammet Said Kuloğlu, who were released by the court even though the prosecutor had not demanded their release at the hearing the same day, 31 March 2017. The prosecutor for the hearing asserted in the objection regarding the release of the eight journalists, whose release the prosecution had not demanded , that “evidence against the defendants was not collected fully” and “the release order was nonprocedural and illegal”.
The prosecutor’s demand was processed on the same day by the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, upper court of the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which issued the release order. Despite the release order, the eight journalists were not released from prison and were remanded in custody again.
On the other hand, another investigation was launched on the same day concerning 13 journalists for whom the prosecutor for the hearing demanded release and the court ruled accordingly. Abdullah Kılıç was charged with “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” in line with the new investigation.
Thus, none of the journalists for whom release orders were issued were released on 31 March 2017.
The journalists for whom a release order was issued were taken to the Istanbul Directorate of Security on Vatan Boulevard while their families waited for them outside Silivri High Security Prison. The custody procedures here lasted for approximately two weeks.
12 out of 13 journalists who were detained again after their release, including Abdullah Kılıç, were brought before the court after the custody procedures had ended, on 14 April 2017. They were remanded by the 2nd Criminal Court of Peace of Istanbul the same day on charges of “attempting to destroy the constitutional order” and “attempting to destroy the Government of the Republic of Turkey”.
The arrest warrant included the “risk of flight” of the journalists as a justification. However, the court had prohibited the journalists from travelling abroad in its release order.
The president and two members of the panel of judges which had issued release orders for 21 journalists at the first hearing of the trial were discharged from duty by the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors. Cem Küçük, who wrote columns for newspapers known to have adopted a pro-government publishing policy had stated the following in his social media account: “Every prosecutor and judge will be discharged from duty who ordered the release of apparent FETÖ members.
Following these incidents, the second hearing of the trial took place on 27 April 2017.
At this hearing, the court heard witnesses testify about the journalists.
The third hearing of the trial took place on 6 July 2017. The panel of judges rejected in its interim decision the demands of remanded journalists and their attorneys to be released at the end of the hearing.
THE SECOND INDICTMENT
Meanwhile, the second indictment concerning the 13 journalists who were ordered to be released at the first hearing of the trial, but were detained again in line with a new investigation, including Abdullah Kılıç, was presented to the same court on 5 June 2017.
The second indictment provided information that Kılıç had worked as an arts and culture correspondent and an editor of the weekend supplement for Zaman newspaper, editor-in-chief of Radikal newspaper, editor-in-chief of Haber Türk TV and a columnist at Meydan newspaper. The prosecution cited the social security records for Kılıç at these organisations as evidence.
It was asserted that the now-closed Zaman and Meydan newspaper where Kılıç had worked were affiliated with “the media structure of FETÖ/PDY armed terrorist organisation”.
The indictment asserted that Kılıç had an account with Bank Asya which was claimed to “belong to the organisation”, and that there was account activity on different dates. The prosecutor asserted that “these account activities were carried out with Fetullah Gülen’s call following the investigation launched against Bank Asya in order to shore up the bank”.
The indictment asserted that Kılıç had conducted 14 separate meetings with 41 people who were being investigated or prosecuted in line with the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETÖ) investigation. However, the contents of the meetings were not revealed. Ekrem Dumanlı, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper where Kılıç worked at, journalists Oğuz Usluer, Haşim Söylemez, Fatih Yağmur, Tarık Toros, Nuriye Akman, Ahmet Turan Alkan and Mustafa Gökkılıç who were on trial in separate cases were among the people with which Kılıç had meetings.
The prosecutor asserted that Kılıç was in the vicinity of the building of the newspaper and the television and the security directorate following the detention of Ekrem Dumanlı and Hidayet Karaca, who were the managers of Zaman newspaper and Samanyolu TV. The prosecutor based these claims on the analysis of the mobile phone signals of Kılıç. During the detention of the managers of Zaman newspaper and Samanyolu TV, demonstrations took place in front of the newspaper building and the Istanbul Security Directorate. It was asserted that the protests “manipulated the investigation to appear as a coup against the media”.
The indictment charged Kılıç with “attempting to change the public perception in line with the aims of the organisation by means of the written and visual media and the internet”. It was asserted that Kılıç and other journalists “ stood against the operations directed at the Gülen Congregation following 17-25 December, and supported the organisation.”
Three ministers in the Justice and Development Party government cabinet and their children were involved in allegations of corruption and bribery in the operation publicly known as the “17-25 December Bribery and Corruption Operation” launched at the end of 2013.
Several court rulings asserted that the journalists had active accounts with Bank Asya, which was claimed to be “the financial institution of FETÖ”.
It was asserted that some of the journalists “communicated with high level members of FETÖ over the phone”. It was asserted that some of them were ByLock application users. 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 charged Abdullah Kılıç with “attempting to destroy the constitutional order by means of coercion and violence” and “attempting to destroy the Government of the Republic of Turkey by means of coercion and violence” in accordance with Article 309/1 and 312/1 of the Turkish Penal Code. The prosecution demanded that Kılıç be given two aggravated life sentences.
The first hearing of the trial after the delivery of the second indictment took place on 16 August 2017. The court ordered the trial of the journalists to continue with the two indictments being merged .
The first hearing of the trial that continued after the two indictments were merged took place on 24-25 October 2017. The panel of judges was found to have changed for the third time at this hearing of the trial. The hearing began with the president of the court reading the documents received by the court.
At the end of the trial, the court ruled that Atilla Taş and Murat Aksoy be released pending trial.
The second hearing of the trial that continued after the two indictments were merged took place on 3-4 December 2017. Six witnesses were heard at the hearing. The court ruled all defendants should remain in custody.
The third hearing of the trial took place on 8 February 2018. The prosecutor presented the opinion of the prosecution as to the accusations at this hearing.
The opinion of the prosecution demanded that Kılıç be released on the charges of “attempting to destroy the constitutional order by means of coercion and violence” and “attempting to destroy the Government of the Republic of Turkey by means of coercion and violence”. However, the prosecution demanded that Kılıç be sentenced on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.
Following the opinion of the prosecution, journalists’ attorneys objected to the sentence being demanded despite some of the evidence in favour of the journalists. Attorneys also stated that no concrete evidence concerning the charge of “membership of a terrorist organisation” had been presented.
The fourth hearing of the trial took place on 22-23 February 2018. Kılıç made his defensive statements against the opinion of the prosecution as to the accusations at this hearing. Regarding the allegation on depositing money in Bank Asya Kılıç said that “he only deposited his daughter’s school tuition instalments in the bank account”. Kılıç stated that three of the four of his articles subjected to the indictment were manipulated, and that “he resigned after Meydan newspaper did not publish his article, where he was criticised the Gülen Congregation”.
The final hearing of the trial took place on 7-8 March 2018. The journalists were asked about their final say regarding the opinion of the prosecution following their defensive statements. The journalist Abdullah Kılıç stated the following:
“I expressed my regrets clearly. I reflected on my actions. I did all this for you to decide what is fair. I believe in it. Adnan Menderes’s finals words at Yassıada were ‘the safest haven in which a nation can take refuge is the clear conscience of the judges’. I resign myself to your clear consciences.”
The panel of judges delivered its ruling at the second session on 8 March 2018. Kılıç was sentenced to imprisonment of six years and three months on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.
Kılıç was acquitted of the charges of “attempting to destroy the constitutional order by means of coercion and violence” and “attempting to destroy the Government of the Republic of Turkey by means of coercion and violence”. Abdullah Kılıç, who was released at the first hearing of the trial and detained as part of the second investigation, was acquitted from the charges in the second indictment.
It was ruled that Kılıç be held in remand.
The Appeals Process
Abdullah Kılıç’s attorneys launched an appeal against the imprisonment sentence at the court of appeals.
The appeals process was carried out by the 2nd Penal Chamber of the Istanbul Circuit Courts of Appeals. The Chamber delivered its ruling on 22 October 2018.
The appeal was rejected in substance. The ruling found that the ruling of the local court was legal according to the methods and procedures. It was asserted that “the evidence in the file was sufficient to establish the crime”.
The Court of Cassation Process
Abdullah Kılıç’s attorneys brought the approved prison sentence before the Court of Cassation.
The appeals process was carried out by the 16th Penal Chamber of the Court of Cassation. The attorneys demanded that the appeals process be carried out by means of hearings. However, their demands were rejected. The Chamber delivered its ruling on 16 March 2020.
The Chamber approved the prison sentences concerning Abdullah Kılıç.
The Court of Cassation ruled that the procedures concerning Kılıç were carried out lawfully, all evidence was collected in accordance with the law, and the defensive statements were heard in full. It was stated that the ruling was based on unequivocal, consistent and non-conflicting data.
The prison sentence was then finalised. Kılıç had been in prison for three years and seven months when the prison sentence was finalised.
Kılıç was released after completing his sentence on 11 September 2020.
The Constitutional Court Process
Journalist Abdullah Kılıç field an application with the Constitutional Court while in custody awaiting the indictment to be completed on 27 September 2016. He filed a second application on 26 April 2018 following the ruling of the prison sentence.
In his applications, Kılıç claimed that “his right to freedom and safety had been violated due to the detention not being lawful” and “the ruling for his remand along with the ruling was not in accordance with the law”.
The Constitutional Court evaluated the application by merging the two files.
The court delivered its ruling on 8 January 2020. The court ruled that “his right to freedom and safety” had been violated with the second detention. The court ruled that Kılıç be paid TRY 25,000 in compensation. The Constitutional Court rejected Kılıç’s claims of “the decision for remand not being lawful” and “the court that evaluated the objection concerning the decision for remand along with the ruling not being impartial”.
The European Court of Human Rights Process
Abdullah Kılıç’s attorneys filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights in March 2017 while the prosecution was underway.
Kılıç claimed in his application that “his right to freedom and security” and “freedom of speech” had been violated. He stated that he was remanded due to expressing critical opinions.
The ECtHR demanded Turkey’s defensive statement against the application. The court has not yet made its decision on the application.
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