Akkuş worked for almost 25 years at Channel 7 along with the now-closed Cihan News Agency and Zaman newspaper. He was the editor-in-chief of the now-closed Zaman newspaper.
The Cihan News Agency and Zaman newspaper were closed down by a Statutory Decree (KHK) that was put into effect as part of the State of Emergency (OHAL) 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.
Akkuş was detained on 27 July 2016 on allegations of “being affiliated with FETÖ Media Structure” as part of the investigation started by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul. On 30 July 2016, he was remanded in custody on charges of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. He was taken to the Silivri Closed High Security Prison.
Akkuş spent approximately six months in prison awaiting the indictment concerning him to be completed. The indictment that was completed on 16 January 2017 charged Akkuş with “membership of an armed organisation”. The prosecution demanded that Akkuş be sentenced to imprisonment of between five and 10 years.
Akkuş was released pending trial at the first hearing of the trial on 31 May 2017. However, he was detained once again before leaving the prison. A new investigation concerning him began.
The custody procedures lasted for 14 days. Akkuş was once again released pending trial on 14 April 2017.
The second indictment charged him with “attempting to destroy the constitutional order” and “attempting to destroy the government”. The prosecution demanded that Akkuş be sentenced to two aggravated life sentences.
The two indictments were merged.
Akkuş was sentenced to imprisonment of seven years and six months on charges of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” at the end of the trial on 8 March 2018. He was remanded again with the ruling and taken to the Silivri Closed High Security Prison.
The imprisonment sentence was approved by the court of appeals on 22 October 2018. The Court of Cassation overturned the ruling on 16 March 2020. Akkuş was released again with this ruling.
The investigation concerning him has recommenced.
Journalist Ali Akkuş was sentenced to seven years and six months in prison within the scope of the trial known as the “”FETÖ’s Media Organization Trial.”
Following the overturning of the sentences concerning the eight journalists, including Ali Akkuş, by the Court of Cassation, the file was returned to the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul for retrial.
Akkuş was released on 17 March 2020 with the decision of the Court of Cassation.
The decision overturning the verdict of the journalists was uploaded to the National Judiciary Informatics System on 8 June 2020.
The retrial against eight journalists including Akkuş began with the first hearing held at Istanbul 25th High Criminal Court on November 4th, 2020. Akkuş and the other journalists participated in the hearing with their lawyers.
The hearing prosecutor requested that the court abide by Court of Cassation’s decision to overrule the verdict. The court accepted the request.
Ali Akkuş indicated in his defense speech that he upheld journalism in all the media outlets he worked for, that he frequently had quarrels with the ex-editor-in-chief of Zaman newspaper Ekrem Dumanlı during his stint at this now shuttered newspaper, and that he was demoted a number of times for this reason. Akkuş said that he had no ties to FETÖ.
Akkuş requested that his probation be lifted. His request was rejected by the court.
The retrial will continue with the second hearing scheduled for March 31st, 2021.
09:30’da başlaması beklenen duruşma mahkeme heyetinin yerini almasıyla birlikte 20 dakika gecikme ile başladı. Duruşmada yargılanan gazeteciler Ünal Tanık, Ahmet Memiş, Yetkin Yıldız, Cemal Azami Kalyoncu, Yakup Çetin, Ali Akkuş ve Gökçe Fırat Çulhanoğlu ile avukatları hazır bulundu.
Mahkeme heyeti, duruşmanın başında dosyaya yeni gelen bilgi ve belgeleri okudu. Gazeteci Yetkin Yıldız hakkında beyanda bulunan iki tanığın duruşmaya gelmediği açıklandı.
Duruşmada tanık olarak Yusuf Ahmet Kaymak dinlendi. Ardından söz alan yargılanan gazeteciler, haklarında uygulanan ayda bir en yakın karakola imza vermek şeklindeki adli kontrol hükmünün kaldırılmasını talep etti.
Yeniden başlayan yargılamanın ilk duruşmasında savunma yapmayan Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, savunmasını yaptı. Çulhaoğlu, yazılı savunmasını mahkeme heyetine verdi.
Çulhaoğlu, “Ben bu örgütle hep savaştım. Bu yüzden bu örgütün hiçbir zaman üyesi olmadım. Yardım ya da destekte de bulunmadım. Bu yüzden bozma ilamına katılmıyorum. Beraatimi talep ediyorum” dedi.
Avukatlarda müvekkilleri hakkında uygulanan imza şeklindeki adli kontrol hükmünün kaldırılmasını istedi.
Atilla Taş’ın avukatı Sevgi Kalan yaptığı savunmada, Avrupa İnsan Hakları Mahkemesi’nin (İHAM) müvekkili hakkında verdiği ihlal kararını hatırlattı. Avukat Kalan, Atilla Taş’ın dosyasının ayrılarak, hakkında beraat kararı verilmesini istedi.
Duruşmaya kısa bir ara veren mahkeme heyeti, Atilla Taş’ın avukatı Sevgi Kalan’ın taleplerini AİHM kararı dosyaya ulaştıktan sonra değerlendireceğine karar verdi. Mahkeme heyeti, yargılanan gazeteciler hakkında var olan ayda bir en yakın karakola imza vermek şeklindeki adli kontrol hükmünü kaldırdı.
Duruşma, 26 Ekim 2021 tarihine, saat 09:50’ye ertelendi.
Covid-19 pandemisi kapsamında adliye girişinde avukat ve yurttaşların giriş ve çıkışları bariyerlerle ayrılmıştı. Adliyeye girişler HES kodu sorgulanıp, ateş ölçümü ve X-Ray cihazından geçirilerek yapıldı. Duruşma salonunun bulunduğu kat bariyerlerle kapatılmıştı. Mahkeme başkanının talimatı üzerine 3 gazeteci duruşmaya alındı.
Mahkeme Salonu Koşulları
Duruşmanın görüldüğü salon ufak bir salondu. Pandemi önlemleri kapsamında duruşmaya salonunda uyarı yazıları yer aldı.
Duruşmayı P24 ve TGS izledi.
Duruşma yapıldığı sırada, altı yıl önce odasında rehin alınarak öldürülen İstanbul Cumhuriyet Savcısı Mehmet Selim Kiraz için anma töreni düzenlendi. Anmada yapılan konuşmalar ve çalınan İstiklal Marşı sesi duruşma salonuna geliyordu. İstiklal Marşı çalındığı sırada mahkeme heyeti, yargılanan gazeteciler ve avukatlar ile izleyicilerde saygı duruşunda bulundu.
Yargıtay’ın bozma kararının ardından yeniden başlayan yargılamanın ilk duruşması, daha önce belirlenen saatinde başladı.
Hakkındaki yargılamanın yeniden başladığı gazeteciler Ahmet Memiş, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Ünal Tanık, Yakup Çetin, Yetkin Yıldız, Atila Taş ve Ali Akkuş; duruşmaya avukatları ile birlikte katıldı.
Duruşma, gazeteciler hakkında verilen hapis cezası kararına ilişkin Yargıtay’ın bozma kararının okunması ile başladı.
Duruşma savcısı, Yargıtay’ın bozma kararına uyulmasını talep etti.
Mahkeme heyeti verdiği ara kararda, gazeteciler hakkında verilen bozma kararına uyulmasına karar verdi.
Mahkeme heyeti, kapatılan Zaman Gazetesi’nin eski yazarlarından Hüseyin Gülerce’nin gazetecilerle aleyhindeki tanık beyanının dosyaya eklendiğini açıkladı.
Gazeteciler, ara kararın ardından yeniden yargılama kapsamındaki ilk savunmalarını yaptı.
Ünal Tanık, iddianame kapsamında örgüt üyeliği ile suçlandığını ifade ederek, suçlamanın gerçeği yansıtmadığını kaydetti. Tanık, “Fuat Avni ile ilgili birçok haber yapıldı. Bu haberleri bir tek biz yapmadık. Hürriyet, Milliyet, Sözcü gibi gazeteler de bu haberleri yaptı. Suç ise bu gazetelere ya da çalışanlarına da dava açılmalıydı. Ben beraatımı istiyorum” dedi.
Ahmet Memiş, “Fuat Avni’nin açıklamaları haber niteliği taşıyordu. Haber niteliği varsa haber yapılır. Fuat Avni tweetleri suç ise Türkiye’de ki tüm gazeteciler hakkında soruşturma açılmalı, gazeteler ve TV’ler kapatılmalı. Fuat Avni’nin tweetlerini bunlarda haber yaptı. Bu örgütle ile hiçbir bağım yok. Bank Asya’ya da para yatırmadım. Gazetecilik yaptım ben” diye konuştu.
Yetkin Yıldız, dava kapsamında yaklaşık olarak dört yıl tutuklu kaldığını ifade ederek, “Dört yılın sonunda adalet yüzümüze güldü ve buradayız. Ben sadece işimin ekmeğimin derdindeyim. Fuat Avni haberleri suç mudur? Sadece biz dört gazeteci için suç. Habertürk, Hürriyet, Posta da buna dair haberler yaptı. Adalet mekanizması, var olan çifte standarda son vermeli artık” dedi.
Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, “Ben gazetecilik yaptım sadece” diyerek, 14-15 yaşlarından bu yana gazetecilik yaptığını belirtti. Kalyoncu, beraatini talep etti.
Ali Akkuş, çalıştığı tüm kurumlarda gazetecilik ve haberciliği savunduğunu ifade ederek, kapatılan Zaman Gazetesi’nde çalıştığı süre boyunca da gazetenin genel yayın yönetmeni Ekrem Dumanlı ile sık sık tartıştığını ve bu yüzden de pozisyonunun sürekli düşürüldüğünü söyledi. Akkuş, FETÖ ile hiçbir bağlantısının olmadığını söyledi.
Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, savunmasında Hüseyin Gülerce’nin hakkında verdiği tanık beyanlarına atıfta bulunarak, “Hüseyin Gülerce, bu insan Zaman Gazetesi’nde çalıştı. Benim için kripto diyor. Kriptoyu biliyorsa, yönetmiş bu ekibi. Tipik bir komplocu mantık” dedi.
Atilla Taş, “Sayın Cumhurbaşkanının avukatları bu noktada çok iyi. Bir hakaret varsa ertesi gün ya soruşturma açılır ya da tutuklanırsınız. Ben daha önce yargılandım ve beraat ettim. Suçlamayı kabul etmiyorum. Biz düzmece bir iddianame ile ikinci defa tutuklandık. Bir utanç yargı açısından. Biz duvara anlatsaydık bunları, duvar beraat ederdi. Biz yorulduk, biz suçsuzuz. Beraatımı istiyorum. Biz artık adalete inanmak istiyoruz, devletten soğumak istemiyoruz” diye konuştu.
Yakup Çetin ise savunmasını, yargılamanın bir sondaki duruşmasında yapmayı talep etti.
Tüm gazeteciler haklarında uygulanan adli kontrol tedbirlerinin kaldırılmasını istedi.
Gazetecilerin ardından söz alan avukatlar da müvekkillerinin suçsuz olduğunu belirterek, haklarındaki adli kontrol kararlarının kaldırılmasını istedi.
Duruşma savcısı, dosyadaki eksik hususların giderilmesini talep etti.
Mahkeme heyeti, duruşmaya kısa bir ara verdi.
Mahkeme, gazetecilerin haklarındaki adli kontrol tedbirlerinin kaldırılması yönündeki taleplerini reddetti.
Ayrıca, Atilla Taş için “Cumhurbaşkanına Hakaret” ve “Türk Milletini, Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Devletini, Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisini, Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Hükümetini ve Devletin yargı organlarını alenen aşağılama” suçlamaları yönünden Adalet Bakanlığı’ndan izin istenmesine karar verdi.
Yeniden başlayan yargılamanın, 31 Mart 2021 tarihinde görülecek ikinci duruşma ile devam etmesine karar verildi.
Koronavirüs karşısında alınan önlemler kapsamında, adliyeye; tek sıra halinde girilebildi. Bu düzen, bariyerlerle sağlandı. Ateş ölçümü ve X-Ray taraması yapıldı.
Adliye içinde duruşma salonunun bulunduğu kat, bariyerlerle kapatılmıştı.
Mahkeme Salonu Koşulları
Duruşma, küçük bir mahkeme salonunda görüldü. Duruşma salonunda, koronavirüs pandemisi karşısında alınan önlemlerin yazılı olduğu uyarı yazıları asılıydı.
Mahkeme başkanı, sadece üç gazetecinin duruşma salonuna girmesine izin verdi.
Duruşmayı Bağımsız Gazetecilik Platformu (P24), Disk Basın-İş, Medya ve Hukuk Çalışmaları Derneği (MLSA) gözlemcileri takip etti.
Mahkeme heyetinin, gazetecilere yaklaşımı kibardı. Gazetecilere sık sık sorular yöneltildi.
Mahkeme heyeti, duruşma öncesinde; koronavirüs pandemisi nedeniyle gazetecileri duruşmaya almayacağını özel güvenlik görevlilerine iletse de avukatların heyet ile görüşmesi ardından üç gazetecinin duruşmayı izlemesine izin verildi.
Heyet, koronavirüs pandemisi nedeniyle yargılanan gazetecilerin yan yana oturmasına izin vermedi. Bu nedenle gazetecilerden bazıları, duruşmaya; izleyici sıralarından katıldı.
"Media Structure" Trial (Retrial) 2. Standing (Minutes of the Hearing)
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”.
Ali Akkuş, editor-in-chief of the now-closed Zaman newspaper was one of the people under investigation. Akkuş was detained in Istanbul on 27 July 2016. He was taken to the Gayrettepe Public Security Branch Office of the Istanbul Directorate of Security. Following the procedures there, he was then taken to the Çağlayan Courthouse on 30 July.
In the statement he gave during the investigation process, Akkuş stated that he had started as an intern at Channel 7 in 1995 and then started working at Zaman newspaper. Stating that he had worked at Zaman newspaper for more than 20 years, he said “He was neutralised by being given administrative positions because he had opposed the newspaper adopting a harsh and aggressive attitude towards the government”.
After his questioning at the prosecutor’s office, Akkuş was referred to the court to be remanded. On 30 July 2016, he was remanded on charges of “membership of an armed organisation”. He was taken to the Silivri Closed High Security Prison.
Akkuş spent six months in prison awaiting the indictment to be completed. The indictment concerning 29 individuals of whom 27 were journalists, including Akkuş, was completed on 16 January 2017.
The indictment concerning 29 individuals, of whom 27 were journalists, including Ali Akkuş, the editor-in-chief of the now-closed Zaman newspaper, was completed by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul on 16 January 2017. The indictment consisted of 196 pages.
112 pages of the indictment listed allegations concerning “Fetullah Terrorist Organisation / Parallel State Structure (FETÖ-PDY)”. This part was identical with the texts in indictments prepared for similar charges.
The allegations concerning Akkuş began on page 113 of the indictment. It was stated that Akkuş worked at the now-closed Zaman newspaper.
The indictment included an article written by Akkuş that was published on Zaman newspaper’s website on 30 July 2016. The indictment also listed a series of posts he shared on his social media account. The indictment stated that Akkuş also shared posts from other Twitter accounts, some of which belonged to well-known journalists. Said posts were listed in the indictment as follows:
“It is observed that Akkuş re-tweeted a tweet posted on the account of Hasan Cemal that forwarded the post of Mümtazer Türköne, another defendant who was remanded due to his activities on behalf of the FETÖ organisation, which read: “As a parallelist I ask the MGK [National Security Council], which terrorist act did these people commit?”, criticising the fact that the FETÖ organisation was included in the MGK’s decision, going as far as stating that he was directly involved.”
“It is understood that Akkuş re-tweeted the tweet posted on Veli Ağbaba’s account, which read: ‘AKP administrators receive salaries equal to a total of 61 minimum-wage workers’ every month. Their job is to siphon off companies and bring them down. Their ill-gotten gains are overflowing from their pockets’”.
“It is observed that Akkuş re-tweeted the tweet of Veli Ağbaba, posted on the @veliagbaba account, which read: ‘There used to be banks being siphoned off, today AKP’s administrators are siphoning off companies’”.
“It is observed that Akkuş re-tweeted the tweet posted by Kazım Güleçyüz’s @gulecyuzk account, which read ‘So, another one of the alternative media channels, which had already been whittled down, is going to be blatantly put to death, is that right? Shame on you…!’”.
“It is observed that Akkuş re-tweeted the tweets of the individual named Erkam Tufan Aytav, who was under investigation, which read: “Here is the link that led to Can Erzincan TV being shut down: rotahaber.com/liste/can..’”.
“It is observed that Akkuş re-tweeted the tweet of a newspaper that advertised for ‘Yarına Bakış’ newspaper, which was published in place of the media outlets to which the government had appointed public administrators”.
“It is observed that he tweeted ‘No dictator can silence the press’“.
“It is observed that he tweeted ‘Reactions continue against the coup against the press’”.
“It is observed that he tweeted ‘World-renowned thinker Chomsky: The coup against the press is a sign of Turkey’s regression’“.
The indictment included Akkuş’s sharing of the journalist Ahmet Altan’s article titled “Sweeping Over” from the website Haberdar, to which access was restricted, as an “element of crime”.
The indictment asserted that the contents of the social media outputs cited as evidence “were among the topics over which organisation members carried out black propaganda”. It was also asserted that Akkuş “attended propaganda activities on behalf of the armed organisation”.
The indictment charged Akkuş with “membership of an armed organisation” in accordance with Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code. The prosecution demanded that Akkuş be sentenced to imprisonment of between five and 10 years. It was also demanded that Akkuş “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 of Istanbul.
The trial involving 29 individuals, of whom 27 are journalists, including Ali Akkuş, the editorial coordinator of the now-closed Zaman newspaper, as defendants commenced with the first hearing at the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 27-31 March 2017. Akkuş had spent eight months in prison when he first stood trial.
Attorney Ali Deniz Ceylan stated that the president of the court for the trial had detained Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu along with Atilla Taş, Murat Aksoy and Mutlu Çölgeçen when he served as the judge for the 1st 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 wanted to receive the defendants’ statements 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 take place with this kind of 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?”.
Akkuş presented his defence at the first hearing of the trial. He stated: “I did not get instructions from anyone, nor would anyone give me instructions”. Saying “I cursed the work of FETÖ and this sinister organisation”; Akkuş stated that he had been moved to the position of layout editor, where he would not be able to affect the publishing policy, because he had criticised the newspapers’ administration.
During the session of the trial on 31 March 2017, the prosecutor demanded that 13 journalists including Ali Akkuş be released pending trial. The court added eight other journalists to the 13 individuals the prosecutor demanded to be released pending trial. Thus, 21 journalists were 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 objected to the release of eight journalists who were released by the court even though the prosecutor had not demanded their release the same day, 31 March 2017. These eight journalists were not able to leave the prison despite the release order concerning them and were once again remanded in custody.
On the other hand, a new investigation commenced concerning the 13 journalists including Akkuş, whose release the prosecutor for the hearing had demanded and the court had ruled accordingly. Akkuş was charged with attempting a coup.
Thus, none of the journalists for whom release orders were issued were released on 31 March 2017.
The journalists concerning 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 of 13 journalists who were once again detained after their release were brought before the court on 14 April 2017 after custody procedures. Meanwhile Ali Akkuş was released pending trial after custody procedures.
The president and two members of the panel of judges that issued the ruling concerning the release of the 21 journalists were discharged by the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). 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 for whom a release order was issued at the first hearing of the trial but who were detained again as part of a new investigation was presented to the court on 5 June 2017.
The second indictment asserted that “there were records indicating Akkuş had used the ByLock application that had been found in many court rulings to be a communication tool used by FETÖ”. ,In addition, the records of Akkuş along with other journalists leaving the country, their social media outputs and information concerning their bank account activities were cited as evidence.
The indictment listed the media outlets Akkuş worked at. It was asserted that the Yarına Bakış newspaper where he worked at since May 2016 and which was shut down later was “involved in the media organisation of the FETÖ/PDY armed terrorist organisation”.
The fact that Akkuş had been in contact with Ekrem Dumanlı, who worked as the editor-in-chief of the now-closed Zaman newspaper and put on trial in various court cases, was cited among the “criminal evidence”. Similarly, the fact that he had had contact with journalists such as Ali Çolak, Ali Bulaç, Mümtazer Türköne, İbrahim Karayeğen, Mehmet Kamış, Bülent Korucu and Mustafa Ünal, who were either put on trial or remanded in different proceedings was cited as evidence against him.
The indictment stated that Akkuş attended the protest organised outside of the Istanbul Directorate of Security in order to protest against Bugün TV and Kanaltürk TV being shut down. It was asserted that this protest, which was included in the indictment as an “element of crime”, was “organised by the members of the organisation”.
The second indictment charged Akkuş with “attempting to destroy the constitutional order through coercion and violence” and “attempting to destroy the Government of the Republic of Turkey through coercion and violence” in line with Articles 309/1 and 312/1 of the Turkish Penal Code. The prosecution demanded that Akkuş be sentenced to two aggravated life sentences.
The first hearing of the trial with the second indictment took place on 16 August 2017. Speaking during the hearing, Akkuş stated that the allegations in the second indictment were the same as the allegations in the previous indictment. Akkuş said: “as a second trial cannot be held on the same subject, I demand that this court case be dropped”. The court ruled that the prosecution concerning the journalists be continued by merging the two indictments.
The first hearing of the trial that continued after the two indictments were merged took place on 24-25 October 2017.
At this hearing it was observed that the panel of judges had changed for the third time. At the start of the hearing, the president of the court read out the documents submitted to the court concerning Bank Asya and ByLock.
The second hearing of the trial that continued after the two indictments were merged took place on 3-4 December 2017. At this hearing, six witnesses were heard. The court ruled that all currently remanded defendants should continue to be detained.
The third hearing of the trial took place on 8 February 2018. The prosecutor presented the opinion of the prosecution as to the accusations in this hearing. The opinion of the prosecution demanded that Akkuş be acquitted of the charges of “attempting to destroy the constitutional order through coercion and violence” and “attempting to destroy the Government of the Republic of Turkey through coercion and violence”. However, the prosecution demanded that Akkuş be sentenced for the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.
After the opinion of the prosecution was announced, the journalists’ attorneys objected to the demand for sentences, as some of the evidence was in favour of the journalists. The attorneys also stated that there was no concrete evidence concerning the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.
The fourth hearing of the trial took place on 22 February 2018. In this hearing, Akkuş delivered his final defensive statement. Akkuş said the following:
“I never stayed in the Congregation’s homes or dormitories and did not study at their schools. In 2009, Ekrem Dumanlı discharged me from my position as the news editor due to my critical attitude and rendered me ineffective by appointing me as a page layout editor.”
“Since the day the investigation first started, I cursed this organisation and its leader. After my release, I have become a victim of an organised attack.”
“The indictment stated that the organisation’s leader gave the instruction to leave the country and many people fled. When my name came up, I called the prosecutor’s office and came to Istanbul immediately after I learned that was true. I surrendered voluntarily by appearing with my attorney and then I was detained. I am not a member of FETÖ, I never joined any propaganda campaign and I was released after the first hearing.”
“I consider the FETÖ investigation concerning me as a gross insult. The evidence that has been presented to the court proves this. I am not guilty, and I demand my acquittal.”
The final hearing of the trial took place on 7-8 March 2018. In his final statement, Ali Akkuş said:
“I am a journalist. My opposition and criticism are solely related to the rights and wrongs of political power. If I am to be punished for this, I have nothing else to say”.
The court ruled that Akkuş be sentenced to imprisonment of seven years and six months on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. With the decision, Akkuş was again remanded in custody. Akkuş was then taken to the Silivri Closed High Security Prison.
The Appeals Process
Ali Akkuş’s attorneys launched an appeal against the imprisonment sentence with the court of appeals.
The appeals process was conducted by the 2nd Penal Chamber of The Istanbul Circuit Courts of Appeals. The Chamber made its decision on 22 October 2018.
The Chamber rejected the appeal. It found no violation of methods and procedures in the decision of the local court. It was asserted that “the existing evidence was adequate to prove the crime”. The court ruled that all defendants should be kept in remand.
The Court of Cassation Process
Ali Akkuş’s attorneys appealed against the imprisonment sentence approved by the court of appeals at the Court of Cassation.
In its written opinion, the Chief Public Prosecutor of the Court of Cassation demanded the dismissal of the appeal. The office of the Chief Public Prosecutor demanded that the appeal be rejected in substance and the ruling concerning the journalists be approved on the grounds the trial had been carried out lawfully .
The 16th Penal Chamber of the Court of Cassation resolved the appeal on 16 March 2020. The court decided that Akkuş be released taking into account the amount of time he had spent in remand. The ruling stated that Ali Akkuş had “displayed the will to leave when he learned that the organisation had turned into a terrorist organisation after working for an organisation that had connections with FETÖ/PDY and his defence should be discussed after examination”.
The investigation concerning Akkuş recommenced.
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