Cihat Ünal

Cihat Ünal graduated from the Radio and Television Broadcasting Department at Isparta Süleyman Demirel University.

Cihat Ünal worked at Akdeniz TV in 2009. He then started working as a correspondent - cameraman at the now-closed Cihan News Agency. He started working as a correspondent for the now-closed Zaman newspaper in 2001. He returned to Cihan News Agency in February 2016. He was laid off in April 2016 after a public administrator was appointed to the agency.

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.

The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Antalya started an investigation concerning Cihat Ünal on the allegation of “FETO membership”. Ünal was detained on 23 July 2016. The custody procedures lasted for three days. Ünal was remanded on 26 July 2016 on the allegation of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. He was sent to Antalya Type L Prison.

Ünal spent approximately eight months in prison awaiting the indictment concerning him to be completed. The indictment dated 22 March 2017 charged him with “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. The prosecution demanded that Ünal be sentenced to imprisonment of between seven years and six months and 15 years.

Ünal was released pending trial on 29 March 2017 after the indictment was accepted. He was prohibited from travelling abroad. Ünal had been in prison for approximately eight months when he was released.

The trial concerning Ünal is underway. Ünal is standing trial without remand.

“Antalya 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”.

Another investigation based on similar allegations commenced a week after the attempted military coup of 15 July 2016 in Antalya. The Office for the Investigation of Crimes Against the Constitutional Order of the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Antalya started an investigation on journalists and some people from various occupations over allegations of being connected with the journalists on 23 July 2016.

The same day, the Governor’s Office of Antalya released a statement to Anadolu Agency, the public news agency, stating that “the Antalya Police Department organised an operation against “‘FETO’s media branch.’”

Cihan Ünal, Antalya correspondent for the now-closed Cihan News Agency, was detained on 23 July 2016 as part of this investigation. His house was searched. However, no criminal element was found in his house or body search.

The 4th Court of Peace of Antalya restricted Ünal’s attorney’s authorization to examine and take samples from the investigation file with its ruling on 23 July 2016. The ruling concerning the restriction was justified by concerns that “it may jeopardise the purpose of the investigation”.

Ünal’s first statement was received by the police in the Antalya Police Department. Here, Ünal was charged with “FETO membership”. He was charged over his outputs on his social media account. In addition, it was asserted that “he carried out the subscription procedures of the now-closed Zaman newspaper”. Ünal stated here that “he was not involved in the coup attempt, he did not have any knowledge regarding who was within the FETO organisation and he was absolutely not involved in the organisation’s structure”.

Regarding the social media messages he was charged with, Ünal stated that “[he] was laid off after state administrators were appointed to Zaman newspaper and Cihan News Agency and shared outputs and comments with the anger [he] felt at becoming unemployed”. He stated that he regretted his outputs and comments.

The custody procedures lasted for three days. Ünal was then referred to the prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor’s office demanded that Ünal be remanded on 26 July 2016 on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. He was remanded by the ruling of the 3rd Court of Peace of Antalya on 26 July 2016. Ünal was sent to Antalya Type L Prison.

The arrest order cited Ünal “working as a correspondent for media outlets supporting the FETO/PDY terrorist organisation” as evidence for the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.

Journalists Tuncer Çetinkaya, Özkan Mayda, Olgun Matur, Kenan Baş, Ömer Özdemir and Osman Yakut, who were detained on the same date with Ünal, were also remanded on the same date by the ruling of the same court of peace. Serhat Şeftali, who was detained on 27 August 2016 over the same investigation, was remanded on 5 September 2016 by the ruling of the 2nd Court of Peace of Antalya.

Ünal and other journalists spent approximately eight months in prison awaiting the indictment concerning them to be completed. The indictment concerning the journalists was completed on 22 March 2017.

The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Antalya started another investigation concerning the journalists. Ünal, as well as other journalists Tuncer Çetinkaya, Serhat Şeftali, Ömer Özdemir, Kenan Baş, Osman Yakut, Olgun Matur and Özkan Mayda were charged with “attempting to destroy the constitutional order” under the second investigation. However, the prosecutor’s office dropped this investigation over the lack of grounds for legal action due to “the lack of evidence.”

The indictment concerning Cihat Ünal, a correspondent for the now-closed Cihan News Agency, along with the other journalists working in Antalya, was completed by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Antalya, Office of Investigation for Crimes Against the Constitution on 22 March 2017.

The first sections of the 66-page indictment listed “Fetullah Terrorist Organisation’s (FETO/PDY) foundation, aim, socio-cultural and intellectual structure, its attempts to establish a state, administrative and hierarchical structure, intelligence network, illegal structure, communication methods, and financial structure”.

The indictment then listed allegations against the now-closed Cihan News Agency, where Cihat Ünal had worked as a correspondent.

The indictment asserted that the agency had “carried out propaganda activities regarding the investigation and prosecution of the FETO structure over social media and internet news websites, and attempted to lower society’s trust in the state and the judiciary by attempting to alter perceptions”. The indictment also asserted that the agency had “attempted to lower society’s faith in the executive and judicial powers of the state”.

The indictment charged Ünal with “directing Zaman newspaper’s subscribers and registering them under different names and addresses”.

The indictment asserted that Ünal “had taken a photograph of Zaman newspaper’s advertising board, and shared it with the statement, ‘We have no power left to resist. The state seized the newspaper’”. Ünal was charged with “making comments which embody the organisation’s newspaper” over the output.

The indictment also asserted that Ünal “had shared the news item under the headline ‘Breaking news: Police raid a classroom during class hours,’ regarding the police operation on Körfez Exams Preparation Course [dershane], which was allegedly affiliated with FETO”.

It was asserted that Ünal was in contact with the Antalya Branch of Aktif Eğitimciler Sendikası [Active Educators Trade Union], which was shut down due to being allegedly “affiliated with FETO”.

The indictment charged Cihat Ünal with “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” in accordance with Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code and Article 5 of the Law on Anti-Terrorism. The prosecution demanded that Ünal be sentenced to imprisonment of between seven years and six months and 15 years.

The prosecution demanded the same sentence on the same charge for journalists Tuncer Çetinkaya, Özkan Mayda, Olgun Matur, Kenan Baş, Ömer Özdemir, Osman Yakut and Serhat Şeftali.

It was also demanded that the journalists “be deprived of the enjoyment of certain rights” in accordance with Article 53 of the Turkish Penal Code.

The indictment concerning Ünal and other journalists was accepted by the 2nd High Criminal Court of Antalya on 29 March 2017.

The journalists had been in prison for approximately eight months when the indictment was accepted.

Cihat Ünal was released pending trial after the indictment was accepted. However, the court prohibited Ünal from travelling abroad.

The trial of the journalists including Cihat Ünal, a correspondent for the now-closed Cihan News Agency, commenced with the first hearing at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Antalya on 11 April 2017.

The panel of judges at the first hearing was different from the one that accepted the indictment.

Cihat Ünal, who was being tried without remand, attended the hearing with his attorney Münip Ermiş.

Ünal said in his defensive statement that he had not carried out any activities regarding subscriptions to Zaman newspaper. He stated that he had deleted the output and the photograph taken in front of the now-closed Zaman newspaper’s advertising board, which he shared during his period of unemployment. Ünal stated that he had talked with the President of Antalya Branch of the now-closed Aktif Eğitim Union twice at most, and added that “their conversation probably concerned a news report”.

The second hearing of the trial took place on 24 May 2017. The panel of judges had changed at this hearing.

It was observed that the Security Directorate of Antalya had replied to the court’s written inquiry regarding whether or not there were records indicating that Ünal had used “the ByLock application that had been found in many court rulings to be a communication tool used by FETO”. The Security Directorate stated that they had not found records of the ByLock application being installed in Cihat Ünal’s mobile phone.

Cihat Ünal repeated his previous defensive statements.

The third hearing of the trial took place on 6 October 2017. Journalist Ünal’s attorney Münip Ermiş demanded that the judicial supervisions concerning Ünal be lifted. The demand was rejected. The hearing was adjourned.

The fourth hearing of the trial took place on 8 December 2017. The prosecutor for the hearing presented the opinion of the prosecution as to the accusations at this hearing.

The opinion of the prosecution charged Cihat Ünal, in keeping with indictment, with “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” in accordance with Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code and Article 5 of the Law on Anti-Terrorism. The prosecution demanded that Ünal be sentenced to imprisonment of between seven years and six months and 15 years.

Ünal’s attorney Münip Ermiş demanded additional time to prepare defensive statements against the opinion of the prosecution as to the accusations. His demand was accepted. The hearing was adjourned.

The fifth hearing of the trial took place on 1 February 2018. The panel of judges had changed once again at this hearing. The prosecutor for the hearing repeated the opinion of the prosecution presented at the last hearing.

Cihat Ünal repeated his previous defensive statements. Ünal’s attorney Münip Ermiş demanded that Ünal’s prohibition on travelling abroad be lifted. The demand was rejected.

The sixth hearing of the trial took place on 24 April 2018. The panel of judges had not changed at this hearing. The prosecutor for the hearing repeated the opinion of the prosecution as to the accusations presented at the last hearing.

The court announced its ruling at this hearing. The court sentenced Tuncer Çetinkaya, who was being tried with other journalists including Ünal, to imprisonment of seven years and six months on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. Çetinkaya was released pending trial on grounds of poor health after the ruling.

The court ruled that the case file concerning Cihat Ünal be separated from the file concerning the other journalists. The court ruled that the trial be continued by the same court with a different case number.

The seventh hearing of the trial, first since the case file was separated, took place on 12 October 2018. The entirety of panel of judges had changed at this hearing.

Ünal’s attorney Münip Ermiş demanded that Ünal’s prohibition on travelling abroad be lifted following the hearing on 2 January 2019. The petition to the court based Ünal’s demand on his wife having travelled abroad. The court rejected the demand.

The eighth hearing of the trial, second since the case file was separated, took place on 12 March 2019. The panel of judges had changed at this hearing.

Cihat Ünal repeated his demand for the prohibition on travelling abroad being lifted, which was presented in between the two hearings. Ünal’s demand was once again rejected.

The ninth hearing of the trial, third since the case file was separated, took place on 11 October 2019. The panel of judges had changed at this hearing. The hearing was adjourned in order to complete the court correspondence concerning other defendants.

The court ruled that the indictment concerning Hasan Yavaşlar, the managing editor-in-chief of the now-closed Antalya Gazetesi and Ali Orhan, the owner of the newspaper, be merged with this case file. The merged indictment charged Yavaşlar with “knowingly and willingly aiding the armed terrorist organisation despite not being a part of its hierarchical structure”, and the prosecution demanded him to be sentenced to imprisonment of between seven years and six months and 15 years. The court ruled that the case files be merged following the second hearing of the trial concerning Orhan and Yavaşlar.

The tenth hearing of the trial, fourth since the case file was separated, took place on 7 February 2020. Cihat Ünal attended the hearing with his attorney Münip Ermiş.

Ünal stated that he was a journalist, and the prohibition concerning him from travelling abroad had prevented him from doing his job abroad. Ünal demanded the prohibition to be lifted by saying, “Given the stage of the trial process, this prohibition has turned into punishment”.

The court ruled that the prohibition be lifted on the condition that the defendants with travel prohibitions present documents proving that there are educational, medical or work-related reasons requiring them to travel abroad.

The court ruled that all defendants including the journalists be exempted from the hearings. The court ruled to lift mandatory attendance to the hearings.

The eleventh hearing of the trial, fifth since the case file was separated, was scheduled for 21 May 2020. However, under the precautionary measures against the coronavirus pandemic, the hearing was postponed.

The twelfth hearing of the trial, sixth since the case file was separated, took place on 25 September 2020. The panel of judges had changed at this hearing. Cihat Ünal attended the hearing with his attorney Münip Ermiş. The court ruled that the case file be sent to the prosecutor’s office for the opinion of the prosecution as to the accusations to be prepared.

The thirteenth hearing of the trial, seventh since the case file was separated, is scheduled for 12 January 2021.

The Constitutional Court Process

The two journalists, who stood trial in the court case which was initially opened concerning eight journalists and to which the trial case concerning the two journalists was added, filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court over the violation of rights.

Cihat Ünal, Antalya correspondent for the now-closed Cihan News Agency, applied to the Constitutional Court on 11 November 2016 after being remanded. In his complaint, Ünal asserted that “the arrest warrant was not lawful”, “the detention period exceeded reasonable time” and “his access to the investigation file had been restricted”. On these grounds Ünal demanded the court to find that “his rights to personal freedom and security had been violated”. In addition, he demanded the court to find that “the freedom of expression and media had been violated”. When the Constitutional Court started examining his application, the trial concerning Ünal was underway and Ünal was not in remand. The court ruled on his case on 28 November 2018 as the trial concerning Ünal was underway. The Constitutional Court rejected all of Ünal’s demands. The decision was unanimous.

13. Standing - Jan. 12, 2021


Mahkeme heyetinin yerini alması ile birlikte, duruşma önceki celsede belirlenen saatinde başladı. Duruşmada, yargılanan gazeteciler Cihat Ünal, Kenan Baş, Olgun Matur, Ömer Özdemir, Osman Yakut, Özkan Mayda, Ali Orhan, Hasan Yavaşlar ve Serhat Şeftali ile avukatları hazır bulundu.

Duruşmada ilk olarak duruşma savcısı esas hakkındaki mütalaasını mahkeme heyetine sundu.

Mütalaada yargılanan gazeteciler Olgun Matur, Özkan Mayda, Osman Yakut, Cihat Ünal, Kenan Baş, Ömer Özdemir ve Serhat Şeftali’nin “Terör Örgütüne Üye Olmak” suçundan cezalandırılması istendi. 7 Gazeteci için TMK 5 maddesinin uygulanarak cezanın yarı oranında arttırılması istendi.

Mütalaada, gazeteciler Ali Orhan ve Hasan Yavaşlar hakkında da beraat talep edildi.

Mütalaaya karşı söz alan gazetecilerin avukatları, savunma yapmak için süre talep etti.


Mahkeme heyeti, tarafların savunma için süre taleplerini kabul ederek, duruşmayı 4 Mayıs 2021 tarihine, saat 09:30’a bırakılmasına karar verdi.


Duruşma Öncesi

Koronavirüs pandemisi karşısında alınan önlemler kapsamında, Antalya Adliyesine girişler sınırlandırıldı. Adliye girişinde bulunan görevliler adliye içerisinde resmi işi olmayan hiç kimseyi bina içerisine almadı. Binaya giren vatandaşların HES kodu incelendi.

Gözlemler

Mahkeme Başkanı, kararı açıkladığı sırada yargılanan gazetecilere ve diğer sanıklara “Kendinizi savunacağınız bol bol süreniz olacak” demesi dikkat çekti.

12. Standing - Sept. 25, 2020


Yargılamanın 12. duruşması, saatinde başladı. Mahkeme heyetinin değiştiği gözlendi.

Yargılanan gazeteciler Ömer Özdemir, Cihat Ünal, Özkan Mayda ve Hasan Yavaşlar, duruşmaya; avukatları ile birlikte katıldı. Diğer gazeteciler ise avukatları temsil etti.

Mahkeme Başkanı, Antalya Cumhuriyet Başsavcılığı’nın, bir telefon hattı üzerindeki Bylock programının Mayda tarafından kullanılmış olabileceğine ilişkin yazısının dosyaya eklendiğini açıkladı.

Mayda, dosyaya eklenen yeni belge karşısında; “Ben Bylock kullanmadım. Bylock tespit edildiği yazılı olan hattı benim kullanmadığımı, bu hattı arkadaşımın kullandığını ikinci celsede söylediğim için zaten, tahliye olmuştum” dedi. Arkadaşının tanık olarak dinlendiğini, hattı kendisinin kullandığını kabul ettiğini; kendisinin de yargılandığını ve ceza aldığını belirtti. Yeni belgeyi kabul etmedi.

Mayda’nın avukatı Münip Ermiş ise, Mayda’nın Temmuz ayında tutuklandığını, ByLock uygulamasına kullandığı yönündeki iddianın ise Eylül ayında kayda geçtiğini anımsattı. Buna rağmen, savcılığın; Bylock iddiası karşısında Mayda’nın savunmasını almadığını dile getirdi. Avukat Ermiş, Bylock uygulamasının yüklü olduğu iddiasıyla tutuklanan kişi yönünden delil mahiyetinde olan savcılık belgesinin Mayda yönünden delilmiş gibi gönderilmesinin de yanlış olduğunu dile getirdi.

Gazeteci Serhat Şeftali’nin avukatı Halil Istıl ise Şeftali’nin mal varlığı üzerindeki tedbirin kaldırılmasını talep etti.

Duruşma savcısı, yargılama dosyasının, esas hakkındaki mütalaanın hazırlanması için savcılığa iletilmesini talep etti.


Mahkeme, savcılıktan gelen ve bir telefon hattı üzerindeki Bylock programının Mayda tarafından kullanılmış olabileceğine ilişkin yazının, Mayda’nın işaret ettiği arkadaşının davasındaki yargılama dosyasına eklenmesine karar verdi.

Mahkeme, ayrıca; Serhat Şeftali’in mal varlığı üzerindeki tedbirin kaldırılmasına karar verdi.

Yargılama dosyasının, esas hakkındaki mütalaanın hazırlanması için savcılığa iletilmesine karar verildi.

Yargılamanın, 12 Ocak 2021 tarihinde görülecek 12. duruşma ile devam etmesine karar verildi.


Duruşma Öncesi

Koronavirüs pandemisi karşısında alınan önlemler kapsamında, Antalya Adliyesi’ne girişler sınırlandırılmıştı. Adliye girişinde bulunan görevliler adliye içerisinde resmi işi olmayan hiçkimseyi bina içerisine almıyordu.

“Antalya Media Structure” Trial (Minutes of the Hearing)

“Antalya Media Structure” Trial (The Constitutional Court's Judgement)

“Antalya Media Structure” Trial (Indictment)

“Antalya Media Structure” Trial 12. Standing (Minutes of the Hearing)

“Antalya Media Structure” Trial 13. Standing (Minutes of the Hearing)

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