Atilla Taş is a singer. He worked as a columnist for the now-closed Meydan newspaper and Haberdar news website.
Meydan newspaper was closed down with a Statutory Decree (KHK) issued 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.
An investigation was started on Taş over the claims of “being affiliated with the FETÖ Media Structure” as part of the investigation launched by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul. He was detained in Bursa on 31 August 2016. The custody procedures lasted for three days.
Taş was brought before the court for remand on 3 September. He was remanded on the same day on charges of “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terrorist organisation despite not being a part of its hierarchical structure”. He was taken to the Silivri Closed High Security Prison.
Taş spent six months in prison awaiting the indictment to be completed. The indictment that was completed on 16 January 2017 charged Taş with “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. The prosecution demanded that Taş be sentenced to imprisonment of between five and 10 years.
Taş was released pending trial at the first hearing of the trial on 31 March 2017. However, he was detained again without having left prison as part of a new investigation concerning him. This time, he was charged with “attempting to destroy the constitutional order” and “attempting to destroy the government or attempting to prevent it from fulfilling its duties”. He was remanded again on 14 April 2017 after two weeks of custody procedures.
The second indictment charged him with “attempting to destroy the constitutional order” and “attempting to destroy the government”. The prosecution demanded that Taş be sentenced to two aggravated life sentences.
The two indictments were merged.
Taş was released pending trial in the hearing on 24 October 2017.
At the end of the trial process on 8 March 2018, Taş was sentenced to imprisonment of three years, one month and 15 days on charges of “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed organisation despite not being a part of its hierarchical structure”.
The imprisonment sentence was approved by the court of appeals on 22 October 2018. With the approval, Taş was once again taken to prison to complete the sentence on 9 November 2018. He was released on 8 February 2019 after completing his sentence. He spent 508 days in prison.
The Court of Cassation overturned the ruling concerning Taş on 16 March 2020. It was decided that Taş should be put to trial on allegations of “defamation of the President” and “publicly holding state institutions and organs in contempt”.
Taş’s trial has recommenced.
Atilla Taş had previously been sentenced to three years, one month and 15 days in prison at the end of the trial popularly known as “FETÖ’s Media Organization Trial”. The decision was overruled by the Court of Cassation, which stated that Taş ought to stand trial for “insulting the President” and “publicly denigrating the Turkish nation, republic, parliament, government and judiciary”.
As such Taş’s retrial process began.
The retrial of eight journalists including Taş began on November 4th, 2020 at Istanbul 25. High Criminal Court. Taş 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.
Atilla Taş said, “Mr. President’s lawyers are doing a great job. In case of an alleged insult, you are sure to be investigated or arrested on the following day. I was already tried and acquitted once. I do not accept the charge. I have been arrested for a second time with a baseless indictment. This is a shame for the judiciary system. If I had explained all this to a wall, the wall would have acquitted me. I am exhausted, and I am not guilty. I want to be acquitted. I want to believe in justice, and I don’t want to become estranged from the state.”
Taş and his lawyer requested that the probation measures against Taş be lifted. The court did not accept the request.
The court also ordered to demand permission from the Ministry of Justice for charging Atilla Taş with “insulting the President” and “publicly denigrating the Turkish nation, republic, parliament, government and judiciary.”
As per the Turkish Penal Code, the Ministry of Justice must give its permission for an individual to be investigated and tried for these charges.
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”.
Atilla Taş, a columnist for the now-closed Meydan newspaper, was one of the people under investigation.
An order for Taş’s detention was issued on 30 August 2016. Taş learned about the detention order concerning him from the media. He was out of town for vacation. He announced on his social media account that he would return to Istanbul to give his statement. The following day, Taş posted a video showing he was on his way back. He was detained in Bursa on 31 August 2016. Taş was taken to the Istanbul Directorate of Security where the investigation was being conducted.
At the Directorate of Security, Taş was charged with “being active within the FETÖ/PDY Media Structure over his columns and social media outputs”.
In his statement at the Directorate of Security, he said “I do not have any connections with the FETÖ/PDY organisation. I do not have any ties with the individuals who are generally thought by the public to be members of the said terrorist organisation. I do not have any information concerning this organisation”.
Taş was brought to the prosecutor’s office on 2 September 2016. In his statement, he said that took up occasional injustices. He said that he had never visited to Meydan newspaper, and only contacted its administration in person once or twice. He stated “It is out of question that I act in line with the goals of any organisation”. He was referred to the court to be remanded the same day.
Taş was brought before to the Judge’s Office of the 1st Court of Peace. He said: “I did not knowingly act in line with the goal and purpose of the FETÖ/PDY armed terrorist organisation in any way”. In the court rulings, he stated that he had not used instant messaging applications such as ByLock, which was claimed to be “used by FETÖ/PDY members for communication”. Similarly in the court rulings, he stated that he did not have an account at Bank Asya, which was claimed to be “the financial organisation of FETÖ/PDY”. He stated that “he learned about the military coup attempt on 15 July 2016 from social media and realised that the organisation was an armed terrorist organisation after 15 July 2016”. He said: “If I am guilty of working for this newspaper, why did the state allow this armed terrorist organisation to publish a newspaper?” Taş expressed that had he known that they were involved with such an organisation, he would not even have greeted them, let alone work for them.
Taş was remanded on 3 September 2016 with the decision of the Judge’s Office of the 1st Court of Peace of Istanbul. He was remanded on charges of “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed organisation despite not being a part of its hierarchical structure”. He was taken to the Silivri Closed High Security Prison.
He spent four months in prison awaiting the indictment to be completed. The indictment concerning 29 individuals including Taş, of whom 27 are journalists, was completed on 16 January 2017.
The indictment concerning 29 individuals including Atilla Taş, a columnist for the now-closed Meydan newspaper, and of whom 27 are journalists, 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 Taş started on page 115 of the indictment. The findings obtained from “open source investigations” were listed first. The indictment stated that Taş had confirmed in interview during the Gezi Park protests in 2013 that the account “atillatasnet” belonged to him. The indictment asserted that Taş “in particular used Twitter actively to make public opinion and the agenda favour FETÖ”. It was asserted that Taş “systematically re-shared” his posts.
Following these, the indictment listed social media outputs posted by Taş on his social media account. It was asserted that Taş “formed the grounds for a coup” with the outputs subject to charges. It was seen that the outputs were posted between 2011 and 2015. The indictment listed some of the said outputs as follows:
. “They say Erdoğan couldn’t hold back tears as he watched the 28 February presentation. There are millions out there who won’t be able to hold back tears when the day comes and they show a presentation about his rule!”
. “One day Erdoğan will go, one way or another. Of course, only after leaving behind a polarised, fragmented, disreputable country whose economy has collapsed.”
. “I wonder where you will go when one day Erdoğan stops speaking? Yiğit the Mixer.”
. “Happy 17 December! All the thieving crowd is full of joy! Let shoeboxes be full of money! If the police come, we will just lie down in front of Reza!”
. “Nobody should be afraid of ISIS kidnapping anyone! MİT [National Intelligence Organisation] will surely get them back, after all, they are no strangers.”
. “They say the White Palace’s monthly electricity bill is TRY 700,000. That’s what Reza’s watch alone costs, so let him pay.”
. “Gezi Park had shown us how beautiful we could become when someone got on our nerves and we got angry!”
. “It’s ‘half-beautiful’ that those who want instant fines for smoking dismissed the charges for the biggest corruption allegation in history.”
. “The government says it will come down on corruption, but does everything to get in the prosecutors’ way. I’ve been a singer for years, but I’ve never heard such a tune “.
In addition, it was asserted that the Meydan newspaper, for which Taş worked as a columnist, was “a media organisation of the FETÖ/PDY”. The indictment listed a series of columns written by Taş that were published on various dates. The said columns were listed in the indictment as follows:
. The column titled “Bunun adı gasptır” (This is theft), published on 7 March 2016.
. The column titled “Yolun Sonu Görünüyor” (It’s the end of the road), published on 27 May 2015
. The column titled “Hazret Diyorki” (His Excellency Says), published on 14 May 2016
. The column titled “Ulan Hepiniz Oradaydınız” (As Though You Weren’t All There), published on 10 June 2016
. The column titled “Kayyum ülkesinin sessiz sakinleri” (The silent residents of country taken into administration), published on 9 March 2016
. The column titled “Halk çıldırınca” (When the people go mad), published on 27 May 2016
. The column titled “Millet seni başkan yaptırmadı” (The people did not let you become the president), published on 1 July 2015.
. The column titled “Hayırsever Reza Eniştemiz” (Our Charitable Uncle Reza), published on 20 June 2015.
. The column titled “Gasp edilmiş, iktidar?” (It was stolen, the government?), published on 31 June 2015.
. The column titled “Sahiden İnandınız mı?” (Did you really believe that?) published on 19 August 2015.
. The column titled “Özgür basını susturamayacaksınız!” (You will not silence the free press), published on 2 September 2015.
. The column titled “Böl ve yönet” (Divide and conquer), published on 7 August 2015.
. The column titled “Terörist bunlar” (They are terrorists), published on 21 August 2015.
. The column titled “Basın özgürmüş̧, peh!..” (They say the press is free, sheesh!..) published on 20 November 2015.
. The column titled “Diktatör olsam…” (If I were a dictator…), published on 20 October 2015.
. The column titled “Kayyum cumhuriyet” (The republic taken into public administration), published on 20 November 2015.
. The column titled “Tutuklandık, vurulduk! (We were arrested, we were shot!) published on 30 November 2015.
. The column titled “Sıfır sorundan, bin bir soruna!” (From zero problems, to a thousand and one problems!) published on 15 February 2016.
. The column titled “Alışmayacağız, alıştıramazsınız!” (We won’t get used to it, you can’t make us!) published on 18 March 2016.
. The column titled “Demokrat Avrupa, Amerika ve Canım Merkel ablam!” (Democratic Europe, America and my dear older sister Merkel!) published on 20 April 2016.
. The column titled “Ölürsem cenazeme gelme istemem!” (Don’t come to my funeral if I die, I don’t want you to!), published on 15 July 2016.
The indictment asserted that Taş’s outputs “praised FETÖ members and defamed the investigations conducted as part of combating the organisation”. It was asserted that in his columns “[Taş] made various accusations against Mr President in line with the general attitude of the organisation”.
The arrest warrant concerning Taş had been based on “willingly and knowingly aiding the armed organisation”. However, the indictment charged Taş with “membership of an armed organisation”.
The indictment charged Taş with “membership of an armed organisation” in accordance with Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code. The prosecution demanded that Taş be sentenced to imprisonment of between five and 10 years. It was also demanded that Taş “be deprived of the enjoyment of certain rights” in accordance with Article 53 of the Turkish Penal Code.
The indictment was accepted by the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court.
The trial involving 29 individuals, including Atilla Taş, a columnist for the now-closed Meydan newspaper, and of whom 27 are journalists, as defendants commenced with the first hearing at the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 27-31 March 2017. Taş had been in prison for approximately seven months when he first stood trial.
Attorney Ali Deniz Ceylan stated that the president of the court at the hearing had ruled for the detention of Atilla Taş along with Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Murat Aksoy and Mutlu Çölgeçen when he was the Judge for Istanbul 1st Court of Peace.
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 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?”
There was some laughter in the courtroom during Taş’s identification. Taş responded to the president of the court asking “What is your occupation”, with “I was a singer, but they arrested me for being a journalist”.
Taş said: “I never used ByLock or Eagle. I first heard about them with this court case. I have never eaten maklube [an Arabic dish cooked mostly in the provinces of Siirt and Mardin; known for being served at meetings held in the houses of the Gülen Congregation], I do not have an account with Bank Asya. I never stayed in their dorms. I am a Muslim but I am beynamaz [a person who does not perform the obligatory prayers salat]”.
Asking that “we are going through extraordinary times, but does the extraordinary situation require unlawfulness”, Taş stated “I do not have even an ounce of trust that the laws are applied in a healthy way. When I saw you, I lost my lost hope for the law.”
Stating that he was only a member of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Taş explained that “he had served in the army in South-Eastern Anatolia, was shot in the leg and has been living with a bullet in his leg for 25 years”.
Regarding his Twitter outputs, he said “I thought my freedom of speech was protected by the Constitution. If I knew I was living in a banana republic or dictatorship, I would not have posted those tweets. I did not know that criticising the president was a terrorist crime”.
“Did I have a stroke and decide to join an organisation just to make my life more colourful when I have lived an apolitical life for 40 years? If I were put on trial for “Ham Çökelek” [a track released by Taş in 1998] it would make more sense”.
Regarding the allegation in the indictment that he took part in stage management of Bugün TV, he stated “We are going through such an absurd period that I am being accused of taking part in the stage management of a television channel that I visited only once. What kind of an organisation member am I, when I have not even appeared on any of their programmes or propagandised for them? And even if I did, would that make me an organisation member? If you were to let me, I do not even have enough money to go home from here”. Taş delivered the following defence:
“I never wanted to write for a newspaper, but the opposition’s field has narrowed to such an extent that there is not even space for it to live. How can I know who retweets me on a platform such as Twitter, where I have 1,700,000 followers? How can I watch out for it? That is a free platform, of course that is abroad. Should I write under every post ‘terrorist organisation members should not re-tweet, it causes trouble’? I have not consulted anyone or received instructions, I only visited the newspaper a couple of times for tea. If this is the way the law is applied, we should just stop defending ourselves and pray a lot. The names of my fellow defendants in this trial I learned for the first time from the indictment. I do not know when we are supposed to have met and become members of the organisation. What I understand from this indictment is that, when you criticise the government, the President, you are considered to have acted in line with the terrorist organisations. Because that is how they act. I curse terrorism and terrorist organisations”.
In response to the president of the court asking “Where were you on July 15”, Taş responded: “I was at home. We went outside and looked for tanks, but could not find any. I just wanted to have a photo taken like Nihat Doğan”.
At the interim judgement of the trial on 31 March 2017, the prosecutor for the hearing demanded that 13 journalists 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 including Atilla Taş, were released.
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 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 Atilla Taş, whose release the prosecutor for the hearing had demanded the court ruled accordingly. Taş 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 including Taş, whose release was ordered 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 including Taş who were once again detained after their release were brought before the court on 14 April 2017 after the custody procedures. The same day, they were remanded by the decision of the Judge’s Office of the Istanbul 2nd Court of Peace on charges “attempting to destroy the constitutional order” and “attempting to destroy the Government of the Republic of Turkey”.
The arrest warrant concerning the journalists included the “risk of flight” among the justifications. However, the court had prohibited them from travelling abroad in the release order.
The president and two members of the panel of judges who 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 including Atilla Taş and 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 same court on 5 June 2017.
The second indictment prepared by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul charged the 13 journalists with “engaging in activities to alter perceptions in line with the aims of the organisation by means of the written and visual media and the internet”. It was asserted that Meydan newspaper for which Taş worked as a columnist was “involved in the media organisation of the FETÖ/PDY armed terrorist organisation”.
The indictment stated that there were numerous records of Taş leaving the country. Following this, the results of the examination into the records of Taş’s mobile phone were presented. It was asserted that Taş had communicated two times with Ekrem Dumanlı, who acted as the editor-in-chief of Zaman newspaper. It was stated that the total duration of these two calls was 217 seconds. Afterwards, the investigations and prosecutions concerning Dumanlı were listed.
The finding that Taş also had contacts with 15 other individuals along with Ekrem Dumanlı, including people such as Said Sefa and Ahmet Memiş, was included in the indictment as “an element of crime”. Including the communication records concerning 15 individuals in the indictment was justified by “the existence of investigations and prosecutions being conducted into these individuals on charges related to FETÖ”.
The indictment asserted that Taş had participated in the protest that took place outside the Istanbul Directorate of Security when Bugün TV and Kanaltürk Television were shut down. It was asserted that the protest was “held by organisation members”.
Taş was charged 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 line with Articles 309/1 and 312/1 of the Turkish Penal Code. The prosecution demanded that Taş be sentenced to two separate aggravated life sentences.
The first hearing of the trial with the second indictment took place on 16 August 2017. The court ruled that the trial of the journalists continue by merging the two indictments. The court ruled that Taş be remanded in custody again.
The first hearing of the trial that continued after the two indictments were merged took place on 24-25 October 2017. At this hearing, 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 session of this hearing was held on 25 October 2017. At this hearing, the report concerning allegations related to Bank Asya accounts were presented to the court. According to the report, it was reported that six individuals including Atilla Taş had no accounts with Bank Asya.
At the end of the hearing, the court ruled that Atilla Taş and Murat Aksoy be released pending trial. When the court ruled him to be released, Taş had been in prison for about one year and two months.
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 the defendants should continue to be held 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 Atilla Taş be acquitted of 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 Atilla Taş be sentenced on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.
The final hearing of the trial took place on 7-8 March 2018. When asked for his final statement, Taş said: “I want to start with the shortest joke in the world. I am standing trial for membership of a terrorist organisation. Fame has brought me more trouble and bad luck than money. I am not guilty, I did not aid the terrorist organisation, I am not a member of it, I demand my acquittal”.
The court ruled that Taş be sentenced to imprisonment of three years, one month and 15 days on charges of “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed organisation despite not being a part of its hierarchical structure”.
The Appeals Process
Atilla Taş’s attorneys launched an appeal against the imprisonment sentence at the court of appeals. The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul also filed an appeal against the ruling concerning Atilla Taş over the charge of “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed organisation despite not being a part of its hierarchical structure”.
The appeals process for all appeals 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 both Taş’s attorneys’ and the prosecutor’s office’s appeals in substance. With this rejection, the imprisonment sentence concerning Taş was finalised. Taş was imprisoned again to serve the remainder of his sentence.
Taş completed his sentence on 8 February 2019 and was released under judiciary supervision provisions.
The Court of Cassation Process
Atilla Taş launched an appeal against the imprisonment sentence approved by the court of appeals at the Court of Cassation.
The appeals process was conducted by the 16th Penal Chamber of the Court of Cassation. The attorneys demanded that the appeals process be conducted by means of hearings. However, their demands were rejected. The Chamber made its decision on 16 March 2020.
The ruling concerning Atilla Taş was overturned. The decision to overturn stated that the ruling of the local court concerning Taş “erred in the classification of the offence”. It was stated that Taş should have been tried on charges of “publicly holding state institutions and organs in contempt” in accordance with Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code and “defamation of the President” in accordance with Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code.
Thus Taş’s trial has recommenced.
The Constitutional Court Process
Atilla Taş made three separate applications to the Constitutional Court; on 26 October 2016 following his detention for the first time, on 29 November 2016 while his trial was underway and on 23 May 2017 after he was remanded just after his release. In all three applications, he asserted that “the detention measures were not lawful” and “the detention period exceeded the reasonable time”. He claimed that “his right to freedom and security had been violated due to the restriction of access to the investigation file, and the freedom of speech and press had been violated due to his journalistic activities and actions that fell under the freedom of speech being taken grounds for his detention”. The Constitutional Court delivered its ruling concerning these three applications on 29 May 2019.
The court ruled that the right to personal freedom and security that are guaranteed by the Constitution was not violated in Taş’s first detention, however they were violated in the second detention. Meanwhile, the court ruled that Taş’s freedom of speech and press was not violated. The court ruled that Taş be paid TRY 25,000 in compensation.
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