She started her journalism career as a judicial reporter at the Zaman Newspaper in 2002. She also wrote columns afterwards. In 2016 following the appointment of trustees to the Zaman Newspaper, she started working for Yarına Bakış Newspaper, formed by the employees of the Zaman Newspaper. She was taken into custody and arrested while she was working at the Yarına Bakış Newspaper. The newspaper then got shut down by the decree-law enacted at July 19th, 2016.
Following the coup attempt, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office started an investigation against journalists accusing them of “taking part in the media structure of the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETÖ).” Thirty-five people were taken into custody, most of whom were journalists.
Erdal was detained on July 25th, 2016 in Manisa. After being in custody for two days, on July 27th, 2016, she was arrested by the order of the 1st Magistrates’ Court in Istanbul.
The indictment for 29 defendants, 27 of whom were journalists, alongside Erdal, was disclosed on February 13th, 2017. The first hearing of the case was held at the 25th Assize Court in Istanbul at March 31st , 2017. A release order was issued for Erdal and 20 other defendants that were on pre-trial detention. However, before being released, Erdal and seven other defendants were arrested once again through an objection of the prosecutor. Due to the release of the aforementioned 21 defendants, three judges and the prosecutor that issued the order were then temporarily dismissed.
Erdal and other defendants, were tried by a new court on April 27th at the second hearing of the case. The decisive hearing of the case was held at March 7-8th, 2018. In this hearing Erdal was charged with “being a member of a terrorist the” and sentenced to 6 years and 3 months of prison time. The imprisonment decision was then taken to the Court of Cassation for being over the 5 year-limit. This process at the Court of Cassation is still ongoing.
Erdal, is at the Bakırköy Closed Female Prison as a convict.
Following the coup attempt on July 15th, 2016, Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has issued a detention warrant for 35 people, most of whom are journalists, for “taking part in the media structure of Fetullah Terorrist Organisation - Parallel State (FETÖ/PDY).” The names of those who were to be detained were first published by the newspapers close to the government.
Investigation order was given by Istanbul Deputy Attorney General Fuzuli Aydoğdu.
Erdal was detained at July 25th, 2016 in Manisa within the scope of the investigation. She was brought to Istanbul were the investigation was taking place. She was brought before the court after spending 2 days in custody.
The judge’s office issued an arrest warrant against her for “being a member of a terrorist organisation.”
She was taken to Bakırköy Closed Female Prison.
Alongside Erdal; Nazlı Ilıcak, Seyit Kılıç, Abdullah Kılıç, Yakup Sağlam, Bayram Kaya, Cihan Acar, Bünyamin Köseli, Emre Soncan, Mustafa Erkan Acar, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Habip Güler, Mehmet Gündem, Cuma Ulus, Hüseyin Aydın, Bülent Mumay, Haşim Söylemez, Ali Akkuş, Yakup Çetin, Arda Akın and Ufuk Şanlı were taken into custody within the the scope of the same investigation.
The indictment against 29 defendants, 27 of whom were journalists including Hanım Büşra Erdal was prepared by prosecutor Murat Çağlak. The indictment was made of 196 pages. On 112 pages of the indictment, Prosecutor Çağlak, makes comprehensive descriptions of organisational structure and the foundation period of the “Fetullah Terrorist Organisation / Parallel State (FETÖ/PDY).” Same kind of descriptions were used during other similar cases(such as FETÖ Mainstream Media Case).
Evaluations against Erdal start at page 158 of the indictment. There, social media posts, some published articles and books that were obtained during house search are shown amongst evidences as it was done on other evaluations and detections against other journalist defendants as well as Erdal.
Erdal is then mentioned for being graduated from “Yamanlar College” which accused for being a “FETÖ Junction” and shut down, for starting working for Zaman Newspaper while she was still a university student and for writing pieces on Ergenekon and Sledgehammer Cases and legal and juridical agendas. It is also mentioned that she has authored the books called “Ergenekon For Those Who Are Confused” and “Certified Lies”.
Then other evidences, which have been obtained by an open source research, are being listed. In this part there are some of Erdal’s columns and social media posts:
• “Promotion time on Twitter! Every 500th follower gets a free one-day stay at Silivri(Prison), a tour of the courthouse, witnessing a hearing, breakfast, lunch (;”
• “Because all the Sledgehammer ladies are blonde, we were getting confused figuring out who is whose spouse. They are now wearing t-shirts with their spouses printed on. Now it’s easier.”
• “I wish I were in Silivri right now, Sledgehammer ladies and whatnot… much more entertaining than the news centre (“If prostitution, espionage are all lies…Narin must have enter the commandership using a hologram.”
• “Tarık Toros among unacceptable journalists after Baransu, Karaca.. An obvious case of crime fabrication, how aware are we of the danger?”
• She made a post quoting T24 webpage and putting a photo of the terrorist organisation leader being interviewed “Gülen: We already accept results of an investigation made by an international comittee on the coup”
• It is also shown among the evidences that she also retweeted a tweet by T24 @t24comtr dated July 17th, 2016 that reads “Gülen: We already accept results of an investigation made by an international comittee on the coup”;
Some of her posts regarding the process of appointment of a trustee to the Zaman Newspaper are shown among the mostnces as well.
Some of her columns published in Zaman Newspaper take place on the indictment as “columns for creating misconception”
• A column titled “Turkish justice open for handcuffs” dated July 15, 2016
• A column titled “A high but bowing judiciary” dated July 14, 2016
• “Censorship and a black cat in a dark room”
• A column titled “How aware are we of the danger” dated July 12th, 2016
• A column titled “Who is real Mankurt?” dated July 8th, 2016
• March 21st, 2013 “Ergenekon: the biggest terror investigation to reach thes from evidences”
• A column titled “Not even the dead are safe in this country” dated March 12th, 2016
It is mentioned that 22 books, written bu Fetullah Gülen were captured on the house search made in her apartment, and all the books are named. Then there are summaries of Erdal’s statements at the police station and the prosecutors office:
“She has declared that she has been working for Zaman Newspaper since 2002, at first she was a judicial reported when she started writing weekly columns at November 2015, on March 2016 when the Newspaper got a trustee appointed she was dismissed, Fetullah Gülen’s books that were obtained during the house search were being legally sold in public, it was natural that she had all types of works in her apartment because she was an investigative reporter, she was using social media actively because of her work, there were news and comments regarding journalism activities in her posts, the column titled “How aware are are we of the danger?” dated July 12 2016, was a critique on our country’s judicial system, she knew Hidayet Karaca, who was being tried for being a member of a terrorist organisation, because she was a judicial reported back when he was sued after December 17-23, Corruption and Bribery Investigations, and she pleads not guilty.”
Prosecutor Çağlak, includes Erdal’s involvement on the protests of appointment of trustees to the Zaman Newspaper among the elements of the offence.
Çağlak defends that Erdal qualifies the operations against FETÖ as “set-up” and acts “to create misconception”. And in this scope asked for Erdal’s prosecution with regards to the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK) article 314/2, on allegations of “Being a Member of an Armed Organisation” and her imprisonment from 5 to 10 years.
The indictment, issued by Prosecutor Çağlak, was approved by 25th Assize Court and the trial has started.
The indictment against journalist Hanım Büşra Erdal was approved at February 13th, 2017. Then a hearing date was set by the Istanbul 25th Assize Court. First hearing of the case took place between 27th and 31st of March, 2017.
26 detainee and 1 suspect that was released and pending trial, including Erdal were present at the first hearing. Suspects Said Sefa and Bülent Ceyhan, who were being tried in their absence, were not present at the hearing. The only released suspect Ünal Tanık’s wife M.T. was present at the hearing as well. The hearing took place in the big hall at the ground floor of Çağlayan Courthouse due to the large number of suspects and viewers.
Firstly, at the first hearing that took place at Istanbul 25th Assize Court, Ali Deniz Ceylon, attorney for detainees Atilla Taş and Murat Aksoy, reminded presiding judge İbrahim Lorasdağı that he had issued an arrest warrant for Atilla Taş, Murat Aksoy, Mutlu Çölgecen and Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu while was a judge at Istanbul 1st Criminal Court of Peace. Attorney Ceylon asked İbrahim Lorasdağı to renounce himself from the case and asked for a recusation in case he didn’t renounce, saying that existing laws declare that a judge that took part in the investigation can’t take part in the prosecution. The court found the request for recusation “undue” and denied it “unanimously”.
At the beginning of the hearing, the attitudes of gendarmerie officers were bizarre. Gendarmerie officers first stood up in a manner to block suspects from seeing their families, then sat back down after the intervention of the presiding judge. Presiding judge’s rush to move to the defenses of the suspect was noticeable.
Presiding judge Loresdağlı, didn’t want to hear attorneys’ request for recusation, declaring that there were a huge number of cases.
Attorney of suspect Cihan Acar, Gülşah Kaya, following the transition to the defences without the indictment being raid, said “I request that the indictment is read (After the presiding judge breaks in) Hearing can’t go on mutually this way. I make a request and you make a decision. At least you are obliged to summarise the indictment.”, the court stood silent. After it was passed in records that the indictment was read, even though it wasn’t, attorney Ömer Kavili requested that the records show that it was a “false statement”. Court board didn’t respond as the viewers applauded Kavili. Following the applauds presiding judge reacted and asked “Who are you applauding?”
Hearing continued with identifications and defences of the suspects. In the first day sitting of the case detainees Ahmet Memiş, Abdullah Kılıç, Atilla Taş, Ali Akkuş and Bayram Kaya pleaded and asked for their release and acquittal.
After 5 days of hearings on March 31st, 21 detained journalists, including Erdal, were decided to be released. However Erdal and 7 other suspects were arrested once again without leaving the prison, after prosecutor’s objection was approved by Istanbul 26th Assize Court. Other 13 suspects who were meant to be released, were taken into custody with the allegations of “attempting coup”. 12 of the 13 journalists that were taken into custody before being released from prison were arrested after 2-weeks of custody period.
25th Assize Court Presiding Judge İbrahim Loresdağı, judges Barış Cömert and Tecla Yeşilyurt who have made the decision of releasing 21 suspects were laid off at April 3rd, 2017.
Next hearing of the case took place on April 27th, 2017. In this hearing journalists were tried before a new committee of judges as the previous committee was laid off. At the end of the hearing 20 suspects were ruled to continue their detention and the next hearing was set to July 6th, 2017. Judge committee was once again changed at the 3rd hearing of the case. Erdal and other suspects were decided to continue their detention at this hearing as well.
The case where Erdal was being tried for “being a member of a terrorist organisation” was consolidated with another case against 13 journalists. First hearing took place at October 24th, 2017, after the cases were consolidated. On this hearing, with the request of the prosecutor an interlocutory decision was taken that ruled Axilla Taş, Murat Aksoy and D.A. to be released and other suspects, including Erdal, to continue their detention. In this hearing witnesses that made statements about Erdal were listened. Next hearing of the case took place at December 4th, 2018. At the end of the hearing, court committee decided for the continuation of the detention of all 20 journalists alongside Erdal.
During the hearing of the case on February 6th, 2018 suspects made statements on the reports that were prepared by experts about the digital material that belongs to the suspects. Suspect Hanım Büşra Erdal, pointing out that words such as “abi(bother)”, “able(sister)” and “maklube” were searched in her conversations, said “I never said I don’t know the Congregation (Gülen congregation). I started working at Zaman Newspaper at 2002, worked there for 10-15 year. But I just did my job, and never got involved in any type of hierarchy. I never called anyone abi(brother) except my co-workers. I have never worn the congregation’s shirt at Zaman. And I will not wear that shirt here at this court either.”
Erdal’s Attorney Ümit Kardaş claimed that according to the law, the crime of “being a member of an organisation” was against organisations that were aiming to do terrorist acts, and the organisation called “FETÖ/PDY” was formerly known as the congregation and did legal acts. Kardaş said “When did this organisation became an armed terrorist organisation and when could the defendants realise that? This needs to be clarified here.”
On the hearing at February 6th, prosecution has presented its opinion as well. Prosecutor asked for allegations of “Offences against the Constitutional Order” to be dropped on the case that was opened against 13 defendants after the cases were consolidated. Prosecutor asked all the suspects except Murat Aksoy, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu and M.T. alongside Erdal, and to be tried with the allegations of “being a member of a terrorist organisation”. Opinion also requested that files of fugitive suspects Said Sefa and Bülent Ceyhan who are subjects to a capture warrant, to be separated.
Attorneys that took the floor after prosecutor’s opinion, reacted to the fact that a punishment asked even though the digital reports and other evidences are on their clients’ favor.
Majority of the attorneys also pointed out that there was no concrete evidence that supported the claims of “membership of terrorist organisation” against their clients. In this hearing detainee Halil İbrahim Balta was decided to be released with a judicial control condition, due to his health issues.
The court has denied the request for the expansion of the claims and decided to finalise other requests with the final judgement. The court has accepted attorneys’ request for extra time for their defenses and set the next hearing to February 22nd, 2018.
On the hearing of the case at February 22nd, 2018, detainees Abdullah Kılıç, Ahmet Memiş, Bayram Kaya and Muhammed Sait Kuloğlu as well as Atilla Taş, Ali Akkuş and Bünyamin kesseln who have been released and pending trial, have made their pleas. On the sitting that took place at the 2nd day of the hearing, detainees Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu and Habib Güler with Cihan Acar and Halil İbrahim Balta who have been released and pending for trial, have made their pleas. Hearing was sent to March 7-8, 2018 for Aksoy and other journalists to make their pleas. Last hearing of the case took place at March 7-8, 2018. During the sittings that lasted for 2 days, suspects who haven’t already made their pleas opposing the prosecutors opinion have made their pleas. Erdal’s attorney Ümit Kardaş has also made statements. Kardaş, emphasised that most of the allegations and incidents were from a time when there was no conflict between Fethullah Gülen Movement and Government.
Kardaş then said “Gülen Movement is declared as a terrorist organisation for the first time after the Cabinet Decision and following statement on May 30th, 2016” and added “Venice Commision’s Report has drawn attention to the uncertainty about when the Gülen Congregation has turned into a terror organisation. This uncertainty is against the non-retroactivity of the crimes and punishments and therefore may cause injustice.”
Erdal in her defence statement pointed that it was unjust judging and punishing reporters and lower level employees while all the managers of the Zaman Newspaper have fled the country.
Then suspects were asked to make their closing arguments. Erdal’s closing argument was as follows:
“I want to teleport to March 31. I wish the prosecutor to not object. I could have worked in any other newspaper, as well as Zaman, I may be following leftist opinions, I declared my thoughts in legal ways.I thought those people were right. But then July 15th(coup attempt) happened and that crime reflected on us. I have paid a price.You owe our release on March 31, 2017 to us. I demand what I’m owed. This is the most wrong chair I have been in. I hope this ends and I reunite with my family.”
After all the final arguments, court committee has stated the verdict. The verdict ruled that 13 suspects along with Erdal, were to be punished for “being a member of a terrorist organisation”
11 journalists along with Erdal were sentenced to a 6 years 3 months prison time, which was the lower limit of the “being a member of a terrorist organisation” crime. Those suspects were as follows; Abdullah Kılıç, Bayram Kaya, Bünyamin Köseli, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Cihan Acar, Habip Güler, Halil İbrahim Balta, Hüseyin Aydın, Yakup Çetin and Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu.
The court sentenced other 12 suspects to a 7 years and 6 months prison time due to “the characteristics of the crime and the intensity of the intention for crime”. Those suspects were as follows Ahmet Memiş, Ali Akkuş, Muhammed Sait Kuloğlu, Mustafa Erkan Acar, Mutlu Çölgeçen, Oğuz Usluer, Seyid Kılıç, Ufuk Şanlı, Ünal Tanık, Yetkin Yıldız, Cuma Ulus and D. A..
Journalist Murat Aksoy was given a 2 years and 1 month of prison time due to “knowingly and willingly helping the terrorist organisation” even though he didn’t take part in the hierarchical structure of the terrorist organisation. Along with Aksoy, Atilla Taş was given a 3 years 1 month and 15 days of prison time with the same allegations. The court has ruled that both of the subjects weren’t required to serve time. Court committee also acquitted M.T., wife of Tarık Ünal, the editor-in-chief at Rota Haber.
The court also ruled that all the detainees were to continue their detentions as “convicts.” Suspect Ali Akkuş who was previously released was ruled to be re-arrested.
All the other suspects who have been previously released, continued as such, until appeal process. The verdict also decided that the files of fugitive suspects Said Sefa and Bülent Ceyhan who are subjects to a capture warrant, to be separated.
As the case against former Zaman Employee Emre Şencan was consolidated with another case against him, number of suspects that have been tried on this case has dropped to 26.
After the reasoned judgement was mad, a request was made to the appeal court. Istanbul Regional Court of Justice 2nd Criminal Chambers have approved the verdict, with the decision made at October 22nd, 2018. The court ruled that the convicts were to continue their detention. The Appeal Court decision that was made without a hearing agains the requests of a hearing by the attorneys, declared that the evidence given in the files were appropriate and enough to prove the crime and local court decision was according to the law.
Supreme Court of Appeal Process
Sentences of 22 journalists along with Erdal were over 5-year-limit therefore a request of appeal was made to the Supreme Court of Appeal. General Prosecution Office of the Supreme Court of Appeal requested the rejection of the case brought to the appeal in its communiqué regarding the appeal. General Prosecution Office of the Supreme Court of Appeal said that the procedural processes were made according to the law and requested that appeal case was dismissed with prejudice and the verdicts of the journalists were approved.
File is waiting to be finalised at the Supreme Court of Appeal.