Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu

Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu graduated from the Department of Business Administration at the Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences at Marmara University. He started publishing İleri magazine in 2000. Çulhaoğlu started publishing Türksolu magazine in 2002. He was the lead editorial writer for the same magazine. Çulhaoğlu has published 22 books.

He was a member of İşçi Partisi (Workers’ Party) and Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (the Republican People’s Party). Çulhaoğlu was one of the founders of the Ulusal Parti (National Party) and acted as its chairperson.

The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul launched an investigation concerning Çulhaoğlu on allegations of “being affiliated with FETO media structure”. He was detained on 31 August 2016 at the Istanbul Çağlayan courthouse where he went to give testimony.

Çulhaoğlu was placed in custody on allegations of “knowingly and willingly aiding the armed organisation despite not being a part of its hierarchical structure” on 3 September 2016. Çulhaoğlu was taken to the Silivri Closed High Security Prison.

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

Çulhaoğlu was released pending trial at the first hearing of the trial on 31 March 2017. However, before having been released from prison, he was detained again as part of a new investigation. The custody procedures lasted for 14 days. Çulhaoğlu was placed in custody again on 14 April 2017 on charges of “attempting to destroy the constitutional order” and “attempting to destroy the government”.

The second indictment charged him with “attempting to destroy the constitutional order” and “attempting to destroy the government”. The prosecution demanded that Çulhaoğlu be sentenced to two aggravated life sentences.

The two indictments were merged.

At the end of the trial, Çulhaoğlu was sentenced to imprisonment of six years and three months on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” on 8 March 2018.

The court of appeals approved the imprisonment sentence on 22 October 2018. However, the Court of Cassation overturned the imprisonment sentence on 16 March 2020.

Çulhaoğlu was released on 15 June 2020 by a ruling of the same court that had previously sentenced him to imprisonment. He had been in prison for more than three years and 9 months when he was released. Çulhaoğlu is being retried without remand.

"Media Structure" Trial (Retrial)

Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu was sentenced to six years, three months in prison in the trial generally known as “FETÖ’s Media Organization Trial”.

The verdict was later overruled by the Court of Cassation. It was ruled that Çulhaloğlu ought be tried on the charge of “aiding an armed terror organization without being part of its hierarchical structure”.

Following the Court of Cassation’s ruling, the file was sent to Istanbul 25th High Criminal Court for retrial. Çulhaoğlu was released by the court on June 15th, 2020, in line with the Court of Cassation’s ruling.

The retrial of eight journalists including Çulhaoğlu, began with the first hearing on November 4th, 2020 at Istanbul 25. High Criminal Court. Çulhaoğlu 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.

The panel of judges stated that the witness statement against the journalists by Hüseyin Gülerce, a former columnist for the now shuttered Zaman Newspaper, was added to the file.

In his defense speech, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu referred to Hüseyin Gülerce’s statements and said, “Hüseyin Gülerce worked for Zaman Newspaper. And now he is calling me a secret FETÖ member. If he knows who is a secret member, then he must have directed the group. This is classical conspiracy theory.”

Çulhaoğlu requested that his probation be lifted. The court did not accept the request.

The retrial will continue with the second hearing scheduled for March 31st, 2021.

2. Standing - March 31, 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.


Duruşma Öncesi

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.

Duruşmaya Katılım

Duruşmayı P24 ve TGS izledi.

Genel Gözlemler

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.

1. Standing - Nov. 4, 2020


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.


Duruşma Öncesi

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.

Duruşmaya Katılım

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.

Genel Gözlemler

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)

"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”.

Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, a writer for Türksolu magazine was one of the people under investigation.

Çulhaoğlu went to the Istanbul Security Directorate to give testimony as part of the investigation concerning him. However, he was detained there on 31 August 2016.

Çulhaoğlu was referred to the court following the procedures at the security directorate on 3 September 2016. He was referred to the court to be remanded following the prosecutor’s questioning.

Çulhaoğlu was placed in custody following the questioning by the court which continued until late hours. He was charged with “knowingly and willingly aiding the armed organisation despite not being a part of its hierarchical structure”. Çulhaoğlu was taken to the Silivri Closed High Security Prison.

Çulhaoğlu spent four months in prison awaiting the indictment to be completed. The indictment concerning 29 people, 27 of whom were journalists including Çulhaoğlu, was completed on 16 January 2017.

The indictment concerning 29 defendants, 27 of whom were journalists, including Çulhaoğlu, a writer for Türksolu magazine, was completed 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 (FETO-PDY)”. This part was identical with the texts in indictments prepared for similar cases.

The allegations against Çulhaoğlu started on page 149 of the indictment.

The indictment provided information on media organisations where Çulhaoğlu had worked. It was then asserted that Çulhaoğlu “had systematically and in an organised manner shared outputs that publicly denigrated the Republic of Turkey, its government agencies, the President, the Prime Minister and statespeople”.

The same chapter in the indictment asserted that Çulhaoğlu’s social media outputs that contained statements concerning President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan such as “thief”, “does not have a diploma”, “dictator” constituted “defamation”.

The indictment also listed Çulhaoğlu’s outputs which contain statements concerning Erdoğan’s call to the public to go out on the streets during the military coup attempt of 15 July 2016 such as “Tayyip calls the public to go out on the streets. His aim is making the soldiers trample over the people!” and “Fellow citizen: Do not go out! Do not give way to civil war!”

The indictment listed Çulhaoğlu’s following statements in his broadcast on Periscope, a live video streaming application:

“Mister Tayyip will sooner or later be hanged”, “Should we hang Tayyip Erdoğan with a rope or ….[redacted in the indictment]”

Prosecutor Çağlak asserted that Çulhaoğlu “had systematically and in an organised manner acted to create chaos and incite civil war by polarising people within the country” over his outputs.

The indictment listed the following outputs posted from Çulhaoğlu’s social media account:
“Tayyip’s diploma act is fake too! #DİPLOMAsızSAHTEkar [#imposter without a diploma]”
“The issue is not him not having a diploma, but him creating a fake one. This is called forgery. #DİPLOMAsiYOK [#he does not have a diploma]”
“there cannot be a [redacted in the indictment] President. We will not give up calling him … [redacted in the indictment] just because he is the President!”
“The Constitution is clear about this. The person who is elected President can no longer be a member of parliament! Tayyip has been occupying the seat of the Prime Minister for three days. … [redacted in the indictment] occupied the seat too.”
“If you were not a d…r [redacted in the indictment], we would not call you d…r [redacted in the indictment]. If you were not a murderer, we would not call you a murderer. If you were not a t…f [redacted in the indictment], we would not call you t…f [redacted in the indictment].”
“There is a t…ef [redacted in the indictment]. The book on 17-25 [17-25 December 2013 bribery and corruption operation] is out now. Buy it before it is confiscated.”
“We certainly do not recognise the broadcast ban regarding the corruption files. We will expose both Tayyip’s tapes and th…ry [redacted in the indictment]”
“People who were recently asking ‘Are these the officers to stage a coup?’ regarding Ergenekon [trial]: Be fair! Would these prosecutors and policemen stage a coup!!!”
“In which democratic country in the world can a government pass a law saying court rulings will not be implemented? People who passed this law will one day have to account for it.”
“The thief appointed a public administrator to Zaman newspaper.”
“My advice to Tayyip Erdoğan: Do not travel to the USA. You will be placed alongside Reza [Zarrab].”
“17 December police officers will be released, the thieves including 4 Ministers and 1 Prime Minister will go to jail.”
“17 December is now a trial on international terrorism, illicit transactions and smuggling. 4 Ministers and 1 Prime Minister of that period will be tried!”
(This section is taken verbatim from the indictment. Typing errors were not corrected.)
The indictment also cited as evidence the following eight articles by Çulhaoğlu published in Türksolu magazine:
“T…f [redacted in the indictment] Also Stole the Votes.”
“There Is a Thief Here!”
“Morsi Is Gone. Now It Is Time for Tayyip.”
“Listen Dictator, You Will Leave Gladly!”
“Number One in the Corruption File!”
“Baby Killers”
“Will He Leave With or Without Bloodshed?”
“Who Listens in on Whom?”

The indictment asserted that Çulhaoğlu “had shared outputs that defame and denounce President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in line with the general manner of FETO terrorist organisation”. It was asserted that the outputs labelled the military coup attempt of 15 July as a “theatre act”.

The indictment asserted that prior to 15 July 2016, Çulhaoğlu “shared tweets and articles suggesting a need for intervention on the administration”. In this context, it was asserted that Çulhaoğlu “was a member of the organisation and had participated in activities on behalf of the organisation”.

Çulhaoğlu’s remand was based on the allegation of “knowingly and willingly aiding the armed organisation”. However, the indictment charged him with “membership of an armed organisation”.

The indictment demanded that Çulhaoğlu be sentenced to imprisonment of between five years and 10 years in accordance with Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code on the charge of “membership of an armed organisation”.

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

The trial concerning 29 defendants, of whom 27 were journalists, including Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, a writer of the Türksolu magazine, commenced with the hearing at the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 27-31 March 2017. Çulhaoğlu had been in prison for approximately six months when he first stood trial.

Attorney Ali Deniz Ceylan stated that the president of the court for the trial had detained Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu along with Atilla Taş, Murat Aksoy and Mutlu Çölgeçen when he served as the 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 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 the 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 13 journalists, including Çulhaoğlu, 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 prohibited the journalists from leaving the country.

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 FETO members. This is the state’s definitive judgement. 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. 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 including Çulhaoğlu, whose release the prosecutor for the hearing had demanded and the court ruled accordingly. Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu was charged with “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.

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

The journalists for 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 here lasted for approximately two weeks.

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

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, had stated the following in his social media account: “Every prosecutor and judge will be discharged from duty who ordered the release of apparent FETO 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 June 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.

SECOND INDICTMENT

Meanwhile, the second indictment concerning the 13 journalists who were ordered to be released at the end of the first hearing of the trial, but were detained again as part of a new investigation was presented to the same court on 5 June 2017.

The second indictment by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul charged the 13 journalists with “attempting to alter perceptions in line with the aims of the organisation by means of the written and visual media and the internet”.

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

The indictment asserted that Çulhaoğlu was in the vicinity of the building of the newspaper and television and the security directorate following the detention of Ekrem Dumanlı and Hidayet Karaca, who were the managers of Zaman newspaper and Samanyolu TV. The prosecutor based these claims on the analysis of the mobile phone signals of Çulhaoğlu. During the detention of the managers of Zaman newspaper and Samanyolu TV, demonstrations took place in front of the newspaper building and the Istanbul Security Directorate.

The indictment included photos Çulhaoğlu took outside the newspaper building, the courthouse and the security directorate during the demonstrations and shared on his social media accounts. It was stated that these photos were shared along with the expression “We are on free media watch in front of the courthouse”.

The indictment also included photos of Çulhaoğlu at a public event which Ekrem Duman also attended. The event was an iftar [end of fast meal] organised by Günün Mağdurları [Victims of the Day] Association.

Similar to the first indictment, Çulhaoğlu was charged with “systematically and in an organised manner sharing outputs to denigrate the Republic of Turkey, its official institutions, the President, the Prime Minister and statespeople in front of the public’”.

Çulhaoğlu was also charged with “sharing outputs to create grounds for the coup by altering perceptions in a way to suggest there was chaos and no law in the Republic of Turkey, that the Republic of Turkey supported Islamic terrorist organisations and there was a regime of oppression and dictatorship”.

Çulhaoğlu was not charged only over his outputs in his social media account, but also Türksolu magazine, which he owned. The indictment asserted that “Çulhaoğlu made similar publications and formed public opinion domestically and internationally through the ‘Türksolu magazine, the pubication and distribution of which is prohibited in Turkey”.

The indictment asserted “it was found that Çulhaoğlu is A FETO/PDY PROVOCATEUR DISGUISED AS A SOCIALIST/LEFTIST”. This expression appeared in upper case in the indictment.

Çulhaoğlu was charged with “attempting to destroy the order stipulated by the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey by means of coercion and violence or replace this order with another or prevent this order from being effectively being implemented” in accordance with Article 309/1 of the Turkish Penal Code. Çulhaoğlu was charged with “attempting to destroy the order stipulated by the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey by means of coercion and violence or replace this order with another or prevent this order from being effectively being implemented” in accordance with Article 309/1 of the Turkish Penal Code. In addition, he was charged with “attempting to destroy the Government of the Republic of Turkey or to prevent it from fulfilling its responsibilities partially or entirely by means of coercion and violence” in accordance with Article 312/1 of the Turkish Penal code. In this context, the prosecution demanded that Çulhaoğlu be sentenced to two aggravated life sentences.

It was also demanded that Çulhaoğlu’s sentence be increased by half in accordance with Article 5 of the Law on Anti-Terrorism.

The first hearing of the trial for the second indictment took place on 16-18 August 2017. Çulhaoğlu made his defensive statement in this hearing. The president of the court warned Çulhaoğlu before he even started his defensive statement by saying “Try to not deviate from the indictment”.

In his defensive statement, Çulhaoğlu stated that he and Türksolu magazine were “against FETO since the beginning”. To prove his claim, he gave examples from news articles and headlines. Çulhaoğlu said: “You can’t make a coup plotter out of Gökçe Fırat, especially when it comes to a FETO-affiliated one”.

Çulhaoğlu stated: “Journalism cannot be an accusation. Journalism can only be judged by the reader” and demanded that the court rule in line with the evidence.

Saying “You are prosecuting the lead writer of Türksolu magazine, but the prosecutor does not know who he is prosecuting”, Çulhaoğlu stated that Türkolu magazine was charged with being “illegal”, while he was mentioned as “the owner of the Türkolu Newspaper” and said: “The prosecutor is offside while taking the shot. It’s never going to be a goal”.

Çulhaoğlu stated: “They wrote the indictment without reading Zaman or Türksolu, I would prepare a better indictment if they would have let me. There are 544 issues of Türksolu, and 448 issues were published against Gülen. 91 of them are my columns. And here you are calling someone who wrote 91 articles against Fetullah Gülen over 15 years ‘FETO’s media structure’.

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. After the president of the court read out the documents submitted to the court concerning “Bank Asya accounts and ByLock use”, defendant journalists and their attorneys briefly spoke.

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 be kept 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 in this hearing.

The opinion of the prosecution as to the accusations demanded that Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu 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 Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu be sentenced on the charge of “knowingly and willingly aiding the armed terrorist organisation despite not being a member of its hierarchical structure”.

The fourth hearing of the trial took place on 22 February 2018. Çulhaoğlu criticised the “membership of a terrorist organisation” allegation concerning him. “I am the first person to warn about the Fetullah structure in this country. I am the first person to use the term ‘parallel state’. I was made into a member of the organisation I labelled myself.”

Emphasising that he did not demand his release in the hearings, Çulhaoğlu said: “I never submitted a petition. I did not apply to the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights. I haven’t begged for freedom for one and a half years. Because I know I’m not guilty”.

The final hearing of the trial took place on 7-8 March 2018. Defensive statements against the opinion of the prosecution as to the accusation were heard in the two-day-long sessions. Then, the defendants’ delivered their final statements. Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu’s final statement was as follows:

“The most important thing for a human being is to protect his honour and innocence. The first thing to come to mind when one says innocence is a baby. I was sent to prison at the age of 42. I want to leave this place with the innocence of a baby. Today is my birthday. I want you to send me to my mother’s arms as the day I was born.”

The panel of judges delivered its ruling on 8 March 2018. The panel of judges ruled that Çulhaoğlu be sentenced to imprisonment of six years and three months on charges of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.

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

The Appeals Process

Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu’s attorneys launched an appeal against the imprisonment sentence at the court of appeals.

The appeals process was carried out by the 2nd Penal Chamber of the Istanbul Circuit Courts of Appeals. The Chamber delivered its ruling on 22 October 2018.

The appeal was rejected in substance. The Chamber found that the ruling of the local court was lawful according to the methods and procedures. It was asserted that “the evidence in the file was sufficient for establishing the crime”.

The Court of Cassation Process

Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu’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 attorneys demanded that the appeals process be conducted by means of hearings. However, their demands were rejected. The Chamber delivered its ruling on 16 March 2020.

The Chamber overturned Çulhaoğlu’s imprisonment sentence on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.

The ruling of the court of Cassation stated that the local court “erred in the classification of the offence”. It was stated that “the alleged acts of the journalists were not adequate to establish them as members of the organisation”. The ruling stated that the journalists should have been prosecuted on the charges of “aiding the armed terrorist organisation” instead of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.

Çulhaoğlu’s retrial then commenced.

Following the overturning of the sentence concerning the eight journalists by the Court of Cassation, the file was sent to the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul for retrial.

The decision overturning the verdict of the journalists was uploaded to the National Judiciary Informatics System on 8 June 2020.

Before the first hearing of the retrial, the court ruled to release six out of eight journalists pending trial.

Çulhaoğlu was released by the court on 15 June 2020.

Said six journalists had been in prison for three years and 10 months when they were released.

The court ruled that the retrial would begin on 4 November 2020 with the first hearing.

"Media Structure" Trial (Reasoned Judgement)

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

"Media Structure" Trial (Indictment)

"Media Structure" Trial (Indictment)

Contact: pressinarrest@gmail.com

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