Emre Soncan

Soncan was born in Bursa in 1982. He graduated from the Faculty of Communication at Bahçeşehir University.

Soncan worked at Star newspaper and CNN Turk TV in 2004. He started working as an intern correspondent for the now-closed Zaman newspaper in 2005. He worked as a Presidential and defence industry correspondent in Ankara.

Soncan left the newspaper after a public administrator was appointed to its management by court order. He worked at the now-closed Yeni Hayat newspaper, which was established by people who had left Zaman newspaper like him. He left Yeni Hayat newspaper on 18 July 2016, three days after the military coup attempt on 15 July 2016.

Zaman and Yeni Hayat newspapers were shut down by statutory decrees issued as part of the State of Emergency rule 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.

Soncan authored the books titled Araf’ta 7 Yıl [7 Years in Purgatory], about what took place behind the scenes during 11th President Abdullah Gül’s term, and Son Akıncı [The Last Pioneer], about the helicopter accident in which BBP Chairperson Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu died.

Soncan was detained on 25 July 2016 on allegations of “being affiliated with FETO media organisation” as part of the investigation commenced by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul. The custody procedures lasted for four days. On 29 July 2016, he was remanded in custody on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. He was taken to the Silivri Closed High Security Prison.

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

On 23 February 2018, the same court decided that Soncan’s file should be separated and merged with another trial file commenced on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.

Soncan was sentenced to imprisonment of seven years and six months on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” on 10 April 2018 at the end of the trial process conducted over the two indictments that were separated and then merged.

The imprisonment sentence was approved by the 2nd Penal Chamber of the Istanbul Circuit Courts of Appeals, which carried out the appeals process, on 3 July 2018.

The Court of Cassation approved the ruling on 16 March 2019.

The imprisonment sentence concerning Soncan was then finalised. Soncan had been in prison for two years, seven months and 15 days when the Court of Cassation finalised the imprisonment sentence of seven years, six months.

Soncan has been serving his sentence as a convict at Istanbul Silivri Prison.

Emre Soncan - “Membership of an Armed Terrorist Organization” Trial

Emre Soncan, a correspondent for the now-closed Zaman newspaper was detained on 25 July 2016 as part of the trial publicly known as “FETO Media Structure Trial” and was placed in custody on 29 July 2016. The indictment which was completed on 16 January 2017 concerning 29 defendants, of whom 27 were journalists, charged Soncan with “membership of an armed organisation”, and demanded that Soncan be sentenced to imprisonment of between five years and 10 years. The trial concerning Soncan and other journalists commenced on 27 March 2017. The opinion of the prosecution as to the accusations which was presented to court on 8 February 2018 charged Soncan with “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” and demanded that Soncan be sentenced to imprisonment of between seven years and six months and 15 years.

The court ruled that the trial file concerning Soncan be separated from the “FETO Media Structure Trial”, and be merged with another trial file that charged Soncan with “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.

The indictment for the second trial asserted that “there were records indicating Soncan had used the ByLock application that had been found in many court rulings to be a communication tool used by FETO”.

Soncan’s trial continued over two merged indictments at the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The trial continued with the hearing on 15 March 2018. The prosecutor for the hearing presented the opinion of the prosecution as to the accusations at this hearing. The opinion of the prosecution asserted that Soncan “had installed the ByLock application on the mobile phone registered under his cousin’s name ,which he had used since 1999, and communicated via the application many times”. The opinion of the prosecution demanded that Soncan be sentenced to imprisonment of between seven years and six months and 15 years on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.

The final hearing of the trial concerning Soncan took place on 10 April 2018. Soncan was sentenced to imprisonment of seven years and six months on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.

The court ruled that Soncan should continue to be held in remand.

The Appeals Process

Journalist Emre Soncan’s attorneys launched an appeal against the imprisonment sentence at the court of appeals. The appeals process was carried out by the 3rd Penal Chamber of the Istanbul Circuit Courts of Appeals. The Chamber approved Soncan’s imprisonment sentence on 3 July 2018.

The Court of Cassation Process

Soncan’s attorneys brought the ruling approved by the court of appeals before the Court of Cassation. The appeals process was conducted by the 16th Penal Chamber of the Court of Cassation. The Chamber approved the imprisonment sentence and the ruling of the court of appeals on 16 March 2019.

The imprisonment sentence concerning Soncan was then finalised. Soncan had been in prison for two years, seven months and 15 days when the Court of Cassation finalised the imprisonment sentence of seven years and six months.

Soncan had been currently serving his sentence as a convict at Istanbul Silivri Prison.

The Constitutional Court Process

Emre Soncan, a correspondent for the now-closed Zaman newspaper filed applications with the Constitutional Court three times on 2 December 2016, 16 June 2017 and 29 March 2018.

Soncan claimed that “the detention and custody measures were not lawful”, “his access to the investigation file was restricted”, “the detention period exceeded the reasonable time”, “custody procedures were carried without appearing before a judge” and “the courts which evaluated the detention were not impartial and independent”. For these reasons, he demanded “the violation of the right to freedom and security to be identified”.

Soncan also claimed that the freedom of speech and press had been violated due to “his press card having been cancelled”.

The Constitutional Court delivered its ruling on 11 March 2020. The Constitutional Court rejected all of Soncan’s claims.

Emre Soncan - “Membership of an Armed Terrorist Organization” Trial (The Constitutional Court's Judgement)

"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”.

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

The 4th Court of Peace of Istanbul issued an arrest warrant concerning Soncan on 25 July 2016. He went to the police station when he saw his name on the detention list posted on social media and was detained the same day. The custody procedures lasted for four days.

Soncan testified at the prosecutor’s office on 29 July 2016. In his testimony, Soncan said of the Zaman newspaper, “It was a newspaper on the rise back then. Seeing as AK Parti was in government, I thought this newspaper would be best for my career”. Stating that correspondents do not earn very high incomes, Soncan said: “I worked at businesses belonging to this group due to economic reasons. I did not have any knowledge that this group had a connection with this terrorist organisation. I did not notice anything within the newspaper regarding the organisation’s structure. As I was a correspondent, I did not attend the meetings. The editorial board determines the publishing policy.”

Soncan was referred to the court of peace to be remanded on 29 July 2016. He was remanded in custody the same day on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. He was taken to the Silivri Closed High Security Prison.

Soncan spent approximately six months in prison awaiting the indictment concerning him to be completed. The indictment concerning 29 defendants, 27 of whom were journalists, including Soncan was completed on 16 January 2017.

The indictment concerning 29 defendants, of whom 27 were journalists, including Emre Soncan, 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 against the “Fethullah Terrorist Organisation/Parallel State Structure (FETÖ-PDY)”. This part was identical with the texts in indictments prepared for similar cases.

The indictment stated that Soncan worked as a Presidential and defence industry correspondent for Zaman newspaper and included information about the books he authored.

The indictment then listed details regarding the open source internet environment investigation concerning Soncan. This included an interview Soncan gave to Zaman newspaper on 1 February 2015. The interview was about the book Soncan authored titled Araf’ta 7 Yıl about 11th President Abdullah Gül’s term in office.

The indictment also listed details regarding a programme Soncan attended on Halk TV on 14 February 2015. In this programme, Soncan spoke about his book Araf’ta 7 Yıl. The indictment asserted concerning the programme that “it openly engaged in FETO/PDY propaganda and discredited ongoing investigations”.

The indictment also included many outputs from Soncan’s social media account. Some of Soncan’s outputs were as follows:

. “I don’t know if I will be detained for posting this ‘tweet’, but I don’t find it reasonable that the Gülen Movement is behind this despicable junta. The Aydınlık Group, which directed the juntas in recent history, has pressed the button for purging all elements within the TAF [Turkish Armed Forces] that are not close to them; they are trying to conduct this purge through the president. I hope Erdoğan acts prudently and does not leave the army in the hands of a handful of marginals”.
. “Even those who appear the sanest can easily say ‘parallel’. At one time, everyone was an ‘Ergenekonist’. This country’s ordeals are endless.”
. “Tarık Toros is a journalist. Those who claim otherwise -I don’t count the media personnel working for the state - are victims of ideological blindness.”
. “It is only natural for there to be a reaction against the disrespect shown by personnel working at institutions called ‘pool media’ against the TAF’s institutional identity.”
. “For the TAF to react in a mature and democratic way to the disrespect is important to protect institutions’ reputation.”
. “What does it mean that Erdoğan’s name is included in the Zarrab case?”
. “Today there was the hearing for remanded judges Metin Uzçelik and Mustafa Başer was held in the 16th Chamber today, While the President of the Court of Cassation was at the tea harvest.”
. “I hope people will now understand the rightfulness of the prosecutors and police who carried out the 17-25 December operations.”
. “There were some speculations concerning Zaman’s circulation. All international channels call it a ‘best-selling newspaper’ when reporting of the ‘seizure’.”

It was asserted that Soncan “discredited the investigations carried out against the organisation in line with the general attitude of the organisation, and tried to legitimise the organisation by praising the operations carried out by the organisation”.

The indictment listed materials confiscated during the house search of Soncan’s residence, however, this section of the indictment included no evaluation regarding the results of the examination.

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

The indictment was accepted by the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The trial concerning 29 people, of whom 27 were journalists, including Emre Soncan, a correspondent for the now-closed Zaman newspaper, commenced with the first hearing at the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 27-31 March 2017. Soncan had been in prison for approximately eight months when he first stood trial.

Attorney Ali Deniz Ceylan stated that the president of the court for the trial had detained Emre Soncan along with Atilla Taş, Murat Aksoy and Mutlu Çölgeçen when he served as a judge for the 1st Court of Peace of Istanbul.

Stating that a judge who had served during the investigation process cannot serve during the trial process under the current law, attorney Ceylan demanded the president of the court’s recusal. The demand was rejected. Ceylan then demanded a “judicial disqualification”. The panel of judges unanimously 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 attorney Kaya’s words. 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 demand.

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?”

The final hearing of the trial took place on 31 March 2017. The prosecutor for the hearing demanded that Soncan should continue to be held in remand.

The prosecution demanded that 13 journalists be released pending trial. The court added eight more journalists to the 13 people to be released pending trial. Thus, 21 journalists were released.

The court ruled that Soncan should continue to be held in remand.

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 even though the prosecutor had not demanded their release the same day on 31 March 2017. The prosecutor for the hearing asserted in its objection regarding the release of the eight journalists whose release had not been demanded by the prosecution “evidence against the defendants was not collected fully” and “the release order was nonprocedural and illegal”.

The prosecutor’s demand was processed on the same day by the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, the upper court for the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which issued the release order. Despite the release order, eight journalists were not released from prison and were remanded in custody again.

On the other hand, a new investigation commenced the same day concerning the 13 journalists whose release the prosecutor for the hearing had demanded and the court ruled accordingly.

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

The journalists concerning whom a release order was issued were taken to the Istanbul Directorate of Security on Vatan Boulevard while their families waited for them outside Silivri High Security Prison. The custody procedures lasted for two weeks.

12 of the 13 journalists who were detained again after their release were brought before the court on 14 April 2017 after custody procedures. They were remanded on the same day on charges of “attempting to destroy the constitutional order” and “attempting to destroy the Government of the Republic of Turkey” by the 2nd Criminal Court of Peace of Istanbul.

The arrest warrant included the “risk of flight” of the journalists as a justification. However, the court had prohibited the journalists from travelling abroad in its release order.

The president and two members of the panel of judges who issued the release orders for 21 journalists at the first hearing of the trial were suspended by the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors. 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.

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 who were ordered to be released at the first hearing of the trial, but were detained again as part of a new investigation was presented to the court on 5 June 2017. Soncan was not included in this indictment.

The indictment charged the 13 journalists 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 accordance with Article 309/1 and 312/1 of the Turkish Penal Code. The prosecution demanded that journalists be sentenced to two aggravated life sentences.

The first hearing of the trial for the second indictment took place on 16-18 August 2017. The court ordered the trial concerning the journalists to continue 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. The panel of judges had changed for the third time at this hearing of the trial. The hearing began with the president of the court reading the documents received by the court.

The second hearing of the trial that continued after the two indictments were merged took place on 3-4 December 2017. Six witnesses were heard at the hearing. The court ruled that all remanded defendants should continue to be held in remand.

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 prosecution demanded that Soncan be sentenced on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. The court ruled that Soncan should continue to be held in remand.

On 23 February 2018, the court ordered Soncan’s file to be merged with another trial file, which also concerned him and was overseen by the same court. The other trial file concerning Soncan asserted that “there were records indicating Soncan had used the ByLock application that had been found in many court rulings to be a communication tool used by FETO”. Soncan was charged with “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” in this second trial.

Thus, the trial file concerning Soncan was separated from the trial file publicly known as “FETO Media Structure Trial”.

"Media Structure" Trial (Reasoned Judgement)

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

"Media Structure" Trial (Indictment)

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