Bülent Ceyhan was the news editor for the now-closed Millet newspaper.
Ceyhan started his career in journalism at the now-closed Aksiyon magazine. He worked at the now-closed Zaman newspaper. He worked as a crime reporter for Haber Türk newspaper. Ceyhan then served as the news editor for the now-closed Millet newspaper. Afterwards, he worked as a correspondent for the now-closed Özgür Düşünce newspaper and Can Erzincan TV.
Zaman, Özgür Düşünce and Millet newspapers were shut 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 into Ceyhan was initiated by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul over allegations of “being affiliated with the FETÖ Media Structure”. A detention order was issued concerning him. However, he could not be detained as he was abroad.
The indictment charged him with “membership of an armed organisation”. The prosecution demanded that Ceyhan be sentenced to imprisonment of between five and 10 years.
A warrant was issued concerning him during the trial process.
At the end of the trial process on 8 March 2018, it was decided to separate the court case concerning him.
The arrest warrant concerning him has not yet been realised.
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”.
Bülent Ceyhan, the news editor for the now-closed Meydan newspaper, was one of the people under investigation.
Ceyhan could not be detained as he was abroad at the time.
The indictment concerning 29 individuals including Ceyhan, of whom 27 are journalists, was completed on 16 January 2017.
The indictment concerning 29 of whom 27 are journalists individuals, including Bülent Ceyhan, the news editor for the now-closed Meydan 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 Bülent Ceyhan started on page 128 of the indictment.
The indictment stated that Ceyhan had started working at Aksiyon magazine, which was shut down by the KHK number 668 that was issued on 27 July 2016, after graduating from university and then acted as the news editor for Millet newspaper. The indictment asserted that these media outlets “blatantly operated in line with the goals of FETÖ/PDY”. The indictment asserted that Ceyhan “made statements aimed at creating public opinion against the Republic of Turkey” in these organisations.
The indictment included a post from Ceyhan’s social media account, which stated: “There will be a new wave after Eid. This will not be as quiet as Davutoğlu’s departure, all the dirt, treachery and theft will be revealed”. The indictment asserted that this post “was related to 15 July”.
The indictment included the testimonies of six witnesses who spoke against Ceyhan. The indictment asserted that all the witnesses had stated “I know he is one of the FETÖ”.
According to their statements conveyed in the indictment, the witnesses said “FETÖ members gave instructions during the 17-25 December corruption operations that said ‘If Bülent Ceyhan provides late-breaking information, make sure you publish it, he provides correct information’”.
The 17-25 December operations started in 2013 following the orders of public prosecutors Celal Kara and Mehmet Yüzgeç. Some bureaucrats, politicians, their relatives and business people were investigated on charges such as “bribery, misconduct, collusive tendering and smuggling”. Afterwards, the public prosecutors who conducted the investigation were accused of “being members of FETÖ”.
In the indictment, Ceyhan was accused by witnesses of “exchanging records and videos” with one of the prosecutors who conducted these investigations.
The court rulings included money movements in an account belonging to Ceyhan with Bank Asya, which is asserted to be “one of the financial organisations of FETÖ”. It was stated that this account, which contained no money before October 2014, received a deposit for TRY 34,586 after this date. The alleged reason for this deposit was that “ the money was deposited in the account after Fetullah Gülen called for support following the investigation into Bank Asya”. The indictment asserted that Ceyhan “deposited a significant amount of money to Bank Asya following the instructions of the organisation’s leader”.
In the section related to the materials confiscated during the house search, election analyses on a piece of paper headed “Turkey’s trial by terrorism after the elections and Erdoğan’s plan of chaos” was cited as evidence.
Along with the photograph of Ceyhan wearing a Turkish Air Force captain’s uniform, numerous CDs were also cited as evidence. Two different books by Gülen were also among the evidence.
The indictment charged Ceyhan with “membership of an armed organisation” in accordance with Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code. The prosecution demanded that Ceyhan be sentenced to imprisonment of between five and 10 years. It was also demanded that Ceyhan “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 Bülent Ceyhan, the news editor for the now-closed Millet newspaper, as defendants commenced with the first hearing at the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 27-31 March.
Journalist Bülent Ceyhan did not participate in the hearings as he was abroad and did not make any defensive statements.
The opinion of the prosecution as to the accusations was presented at the hearing of the trial held on 6 February 2018. It was demanded that Ceyhan’s file be separated as he could not be detained.
Meanwhile, the 29 defendants, of whom 27 were journalists, were sentenced to various imprisonment sentences at the final hearing of the trial on 7-8 March 2018. The panel of judges sentenced 11 journalists to imprisonment of six years and three months on the charges of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” and 12 journalists to imprisonment of seven years and six months on the same charges.
Meanwhile, two journalists were sentenced to imprisonment of between two years, one month and 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” at the end of the trial process.
At this hearing, it was decided to wait for the realisation of the arrest warrant issued on Ceyhan and to separate the case file concerning him.
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