Bayram Kaya

Kaya started his career as a journalist at TRT. He worked as a correspondent for the now-closed Zaman newspaper for a long time. He wrote the books titled Sakıncalı Bürokratlar [Objectionable Bureaucrats], Babam Sağolsun [Thanks to My Father] and Kördüğüm [Deadlock].

The government appointed an administrator to the newspaper by court order before entirely shutting it down. The newspaper was “entirely” shut down with a Statutory Decree (KHK) issued as a 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.

After the newspaper was seized by the government by “the appointment of a public administrator”, Kaya started working as a correspondent for Yeni Hayat newspaper. Yeni Hayat newspaper too was later shut down by a state of emergency statutory decree.

Kaya was detained on 25 July 2016 over the claims of “being affiliated with FETÖ Media Structure” as part of the investigation started by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul. On 29 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.

He spent six months in prison awaiting the indictment to be completed. The indictment that was completed on 16 January 2017 charged Kaya with “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. The prosecution demanded that Kaya be sentenced to imprisonment of between five and 10 years.

Kaya was released pending trial at the first hearing of the trial on 31 May 2017. However, he was detained once again the same day after an appeal by the prosecutor’s office.

At the end of the trial process, he was sentenced to imprisonment of six years and three months on 8 March 2018.

The imprisonment sentence was approved by the court of appeals on 22 October 2018. Meanwhile, the Court of Cassation approved the ruling on 16 March 2020.

After completing the execution of the sentence, he was released on 10 September 2020. He had been in prison for more than four years when he was released.

"Media Structure" Trial

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”.

Bayram Kaya, a correspondent for the now-closed Zaman newspaper was one of the people under investigation.

Kaya was detained on 25 July 2016. He was taken to the Gayrettepe Public Security Branch Office of the Istanbul Directorate of Security. In this statement at the prosecutor’s office, Kaya stated “I am not a member of the organisation called FETÖ/PDY. I am only a journalist. It is out of question that I engaged in any activities other than journalism. I am a correspondent. A correspondent is at entry level in the journalistic profession. It is not possible for a correspondent alone to have the authority to change perceptions or defame others”.

He was referred to the court to be remanded on 29 July 2016. In this questioning at the judge’s office, he stated “It is out of question that I am involved in an organisation that aims to overthrow AK Party or any other political structure. This is because both I and my family are people who voted for the said government for years”. He rejected the allegations concerning attempting to overthrow the government or any other coup attempts.

On 29 July 2016, he was remanded on charges of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. He was taken to the Silivri Closed High Security Prison.

He spent six months in prison awaiting the indictment to be completed. The indictment concerning 29 individuals including Bayram Kaya, of whom 27 are journalists, was completed on 16 January 2017.

The indictment concerning 29 individuals, 27 of whom are journalists, including Bayram Kaya, a correspondent for 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 Kaya started on page 125 of the indictment. The indictment included the information that Kaya had worked at the Aktif Haber website, to which access was restricted, and the now-closed Zaman newspaper and wrote the books titled Sakıncalı Bürokratlar [Objectionable Bureaucrats], Babam Sağolsun [Thanks to My Father] and Kördüğüm [Deadlock].

The indictment included an output Kaya shared on his social media account on 14 July 2016. The indictment asserted that the output, which claimed “according to intelligence reports, a major purge will take place at the Supreme Military Council meeting to be held in August and TAF [the Turkish Armed Forces] should not permit these kind of denunciations” was shared a day before the military coup attempt on 15 July 2016.

The indictment also included assessments concerning Kaya’s book titled Thanks to my Father. The indictment included the opinions of journalist-writer Mehmet Altan, who contributed to the book by writing the “Introduction” and was then remanded in custody pending trial. It was asserted that Kaya “tried to defame” Bilal Erdoğan, the son of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and engaged in “black propaganda” regarding the “corruption operation” process on 17-25 December 2013 in his book.
The investigation that began at the end of 2013 and involved many ministers who held office at the time and leading political actors is publicly known as the “17/25 December corruption and bribery operation”.

Meanwhile, regarding Kaya’s book titled Objectionable Bureaucrats, the indictment asserted that its contents included “attempts to legitimise the Ergenekon process” and “activities aimed at black propaganda”.

The indictment also included assessments concerning the book titled Deadlock, which is about the murder of journalist Hrant Dink. With his book, it was asserted that Kaya “had attempted to acquit the organisation, which was facing public lawsuits for directing the crime and to create public opinion regarding the incident”.

The indictment also included Kaya’s social media outputs from 14 July 2016:
• “Today, a couple of newspapers have pressed the red button. According to intelligence reports, TAF [Turkish Armed Forces] members have been made potential targets.”
• “Under the pretence of so-called parallel structure, the aim is a purge before the Supreme Military Council. TAF should not permit this kind of denunciation.”
• “Within this scope, the first place where the button was pressed is İzmir. Some staff officers and pashas [generals] were marked as potential targets”.
• “The aim is a purge of TAF before the Supreme Military Council meeting to be held in August. In this scope, intelligence stooges have been put in place”.
[This section is taken verbatim from the indictment.]

Pointing out that these outputs were shared one day before the military coup attempt, it was asserted that these messages “constituted calling on the TAF to intervene”.

Aside from these outputs, the indictment included 16 additional social media outputs belonging to Kaya, which were posted on different dates, as “elements of crime”.

The indictment also included certain materials and books that were seized later during a search of Kaya’s house. The book titled Huzurdan Esintiler 3 [Breezes of Tranquillity 3], which had a photograph of Fethullah Gülen on its cover, and the book titled Darbe Oyunu [The Coup Plot] written by Veysel Ayhan were cited among confiscated evidence that constituted “elements of crime”.

The indictment asserted that Kaya “attempted to legitimise the crimes committed by the organisation and tried to find support from the public for the conspiracy-based investigations started by the organisation”. The indictment asserted that Kaya “engaged in activities to change perceptions by sharing posts aimed at legitimising the military coup attempt” with his social media outputs.

The indictment charged Kaya with “membership of an armed organisation” in accordance with Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code. The prosecution demanded that Kaya be sentenced to imprisonment of between five and 10 years. It was also demanded that Kaya “be deprived of the enjoyment of certain rights” in accordance with Article 53 of the Turkish Penal Code.

The trial involving 29 individuals, of whom 27 were journalists including Bayram Kaya, a former correspondent for the now-closed Zaman newspaper, as defendants commenced with the first hearing at the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 27-31 March.

Attorney Ali Deniz Ceylan stated that the president of the court at the hearing had ruled for the detention of Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu along with Atilla Taş, Murat Aksoy and Mutlu Çölgeçen when served as 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?” Kaya made his defensive statement at the first hearing of the trial. Stating “I do not accept any allegations except for being a journalist”, Kaya said: “For a journalist to be put on trial for attempting a coup is a behaviour unique to Turkey. I have always cursed coups. I leave it up to the conscience of the prosecutor that my person is associated with the juntas”.

At the interim judgement of the hearing on 31 March 2017, the prosecutor for the hearing demanded that 13 journalists be released pending trial. The court added eight other journalists including Bayram Kaya to the 13 individuals the prosecutor had demanded to be released pending trial. The court ruled for the 21 journalists be released. The court prohibited the journalists from travelling abroad.

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 who were released by the court despite the prosecutor not having demanded their release the same day, 31 March 2017. The prosecutor for the hearing asserted in its objection regarding the release of the eight journalists despite not having demanded one earlier that “evidence against the defendants was not collected fully” and “the release order was nonprocedural and illegal”.

The prosecutor’s demand was processed the same day by the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which acted as the higher court of the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul that had issued the release order. The eight journalists including Bayram were not able to leave the prison despite the release order and were once again remanded in custody.

On the other hand, a new investigation was commenced against the 13 journalists whose release had been demanded by the prosecutor for the hearing and the court had ruled accordingly. The journalists were charged with “attempting a coup” and “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.

Thus, none of the journalists for whom release orders were issued were released on 31 March 2017. 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.

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 journalists were 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 the journalists be sentenced to two aggravated life sentences.

The first hearing of the trial with the second indictment took place on 16 August 2017. 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 the panel of judges had been changed for the third time. At the hearing, the documents submitted to the court concerning Bank Asya and ByLock were read. It was announced that the report stated that no records of ByLock application were found in Bayram Kaya’s mobile phone.

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 in this hearing. The opinion of the prosecution demanded that Kaya be sentenced over 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 allegation “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.

The fourth hearing of the trial took place on 22 February 2018. Kaya stated that the expert’s report had “debunked” the “ByLock” allegation concerning him. The highlights of Kaya’s defence were as the following:

“I always relied on open sources for news, I have never received news from secret sources. I worked for Yeni Hayat newspaper for only two months. I left the newspaper after the military coup attempt. I do not know who previously used those computers. I demand the admission of additional evidence, my acquittal, and all evidence in my favour to be assessed and processed.”

The final hearing of the trial took place on 7-8 March 2018. When asked about his final statement, Bayrak Kaya said that he had been a journalist for 10 years and owned a yellow press cards until he was detained. He stated that he had travelled to dozens of countries with the prime minister and other ministers as part of his work. “I have never made an effort to do anything except for journalism. I want to benefit from the same privilege granted to those who acted as my administrators for eight years.”

The panel of judges announced its decision on 8 March 2018. The court sentenced Kaya to six years and three months of imprisonment on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.

Kaya had been in prison for one year and seven months when the local court announced its ruling concerning him.

The Appeals Process

Journalist Bayram Kaya’s attorneys launched an appeal against the imprisonment sentence at 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 court of appeals rejected the application in substance. No violation of methods and procedures was found in the decision of the local court. It was asserted that “the existing evidence was adequate to prove the crime”.

The Court of Cassation Process

Journalist Bayram Kaya 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 Chamber approved the ruling concerning Bayram Kaya. The Court of Cassation ruled that the procedures concerning Kaya were conducted in accordance with law, all evidence was collected lawfully and defensive statements were allowed in full. It was stated that the ruling was based on unequivocal, consistent and non-conflicting data.

Thus, the imprisonment sentence concerning Kaya was finalised. Kaya had been in prison for three years and seven months when the imprisonment sentence concerning him was finalised.

Kaya was released on 10 February 2020 after completing his sentence.

Kaya had been in prison for more than four years when he was released.

The Constitutional Court Process

Journalist Bayram Kaya appealed to the Constitutional Court on 16 July 2017 while his trial was underway and on 29 March 2018, after the local court issued the ruling concerning his imprisonment.

He demanded that “the unlawfulness of the detention and remand measures”, “the detention period exceeding reasonable time” and “the violation of the principles of impartiality and independence of the court concerning his remand examinations” to be identified. He also asserted that “his freedom of expression and press” had been violated when his press card was revoked.

The Constitutional Court made its decision on 28 November 2018. The court rejected all of Bayram Kaya’s claims. The claims that asserted “his detention had exceeded reasonable time”, “appeals concerning the continuation of his remand were not examined in full” and “his freedom of expression and press had been violated when his press card was revoked” were rejected.

"Media Structure" Trial (Reasoned Judgement)

"Media Structure" Trial (The Constitutional Court's Judgement)

"Media Structure" Trial (The Court of Cassation's Judgement)

"Media Structure" Trial (Indictment)

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