İbrahim Karayeğen was the editor-in-chief for the Zaman Newspaper. Karayeğen also served as the newspaper’s Ankara correspondent. After a trustee was appointed to the newspaper, he worked for the Yeni Hayat Newspaper. As part of the legal cases against the newspaper, the prosecutor sought a sentence of up to three times aggravated life imprisonment and an additional 15 years in prison. The charges against him were coup-plotting and terrorism. He was sentenced to nine years in prison. The Court of Appeal upheld the sentence. His file is in the Court of Cassation.
Karayeğen was detained at Atatürk Airport on July 16, 2016. Pro-government media claimed he was caught while trying to flee, an allegation that later appeared in prosecutor’s legal opinion as well. However, Karayeğen explained during his defenses that there was no arrest warrant or investigation against him. He also added that he bought a round-trip.
According to his statements, Karayeğen was held at the Counter-Terror Bureau of the Istanbul Police Force in a room without a camera with his handcuffed behind his back. He was battered and insulted by the police officers in the room. He claimed the maltreatment was evident in his medical reports. When asked about the newspaper, Karayeğen reminded the police officers of “the privity of crime” but in return, he was told by the police officers: “There is no law.” Karayeğen said his first legal statement was taken at 5 o’clock in the morning. Because of medical issues, he had to interrupt it and his second statement was not included in the file.
Karayeğen said he was held in detention for five days and 1.5 months in prison and that the prison doctor had requested a referral to hospital but his request was not executed because of the state of emergency rule at the time. After being held in a single-cell for 6.5 months, he was transferred to a room for three. İsmet Bozkurt, the prosecutor of the Bureau for Terror and Organized Crime of the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office, completed the indictment against the writers and executives of the Zaman newspaper, including Karayeğen, on April 10, 2018. The 64-page indictment was presented to the court on April 11, 2017 and was accepted by the Istanbul 13th Criminal Court on April 24, 2017. When the indictment against him was accepted and the case was opened, Karayeğen had been in Silivri Prison for nine months.
The indictment against İbrahim Karayeğen and the executives and writers of the Zaman newspaper was completed on April 10, 2017 by Ismet Bozkurt, a prosecutor of the Bureau of Terror and Organized Crimes of Istanbul.
The indictment against Karayeğen started with the organization’s purpose, structure, sources of income, and armed power, as in many of the indictments in FETÖ trials. This chapter continued for about twenty pages. The indictment specified that the media organizations, where journalists were working, had links with FETÖ. The indictment included the names of other journalists who were not suspects. The charges against the accused began after this chapter. Karayeğen was alleged to be the media force of FETÖ.
Karayeğen was accused of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, the parliament and the government” for the organization.
Karayeğen’s name was used only twice in the indictment: once in the identification chapter. None of his articles or his social media posts were used as evidence. His name was mentioned a second time with the other defendants in the chapter where the alleged crimes committed and the punishments were listed. The indictment claimed that Karayeğen was not only dissident in his articles. The prosecutor wrote in the indictment, ”there are no visible elements of crime.”
However, it was stated that the articles exceeded the limits of the freedom of the press and expression. Karayeğen’s articles allegedly violated the rights of state authorities and institutions. The articles were capable of disrupting the peace of the society, social peace and order. The prosecutor claimed Karayeğen did not hesitate to call for a military coup. Although he was charged for his articles, the indictment did not include any of them.
The prosecutor demanded a sentence of up to three times aggravated life imprisonment as well as 7.5 to 15 years in prison. Karayeğen faced charges of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, the Parliament and the government of the Republic of Turkey or to prevent them from doing their duties” and “being a member of an armed organization” (314/2).
The first hearing was on Sept. 18-19, 2017 at the İstanbul 13th Criminal Court. The court was inside Silivri Prison. In his first defense, Karayeğen said he was accused of being involved in a military coup, but there was not a single sentence about him in the indictment. Karayeğen said his name was mentioned only once in the indictment but that was mistaken as well:
“The prosecutor thinks I’m a writer for Zaman, but I’m a night manager of the editorial office. I’ve been working at Zaman for 12 years as the night editor. A night editor has no influence on the newspaper. His/her task is a technical task. The night editor has no authority or responsibility in the newspaper’s publication policy.”
The second hearing was on Dec. 8, 2017. The third hearing was on April 5, 2018. Prosecutor İsmet Bozkurt disclosed his opinion on the merits at this hearing.
In the opinion, the prosecutor alleged that Karayeğen was connected to the organization’s secret communications network, Bylock, 2021 times. Bozkurt claimed that he was caught at the airport after the coup attempt while fleeing and a one dollar bill was found on him. Bozkurt also said Karayeğen had criticized the investigations against the organization and expressed his loyalty to Gülen. On April 5, 2018, the prosecutor revealed his legal opinion on the merits. He demanded aggravated life imprisonment for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” and 15 years of imprisonment for “being a member of an armed terrorist organization.”
In addition to the indictment, the legal opinion of the prosecutor on the merits included two social media post by Karayeğen, and the photo of Fethullah Gülen on his cell phone as evidence of the crime. Prosecutor İsmet Bozkurt changed his first legal opinion against four defendants after 20 days. In the additional opinion, the allegation of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” and the aggravated life imprisonment were eliminated.
Instead, Prosecutor Bozkurt demanded an imprisonment up to 22.5 years under article 314/1 of the Turkish Penal Code, for allegedly “managing an armed terrorist organization.” The fifth hearing was on June 7-8, 2018. Karayeğen made the following defense after the prosecutor changed his initial legal opinion on the merits with the additional opinion:
“I can understand why the prosecutor waived the coup charges because there was no evidence in the case that I had committed this crime against humanity. But I do not understand, what changed in the last twenty days since the last hearing that I was promoted from membership of the terrorist organization, to the management of it? Is there any new evidence?”
The trial ended with a hearing on July 5-6, 2018 when a verdict was finally made. Karayeğen was sentenced to nine years of imprisonment for ”being a member of an armed terrorist organization” under the Article 314/2 of Turkish Penal Code. The court board did not make any remission on Karayeğen’s penalty based on his behavior throughout the trial and the lack of remorse. However, the court ruled his release considering both the time the defendant had already served and the ruling of the Constitutional Court on Şahin Alpay. Karayeğen was released with a travel ban.
The İstanbul Jurisdiction Court’s 2nd Penal Chamber approved the 9 years 9 imprisonment sentence about him on June 25, 2019. Accordingly, The Court of Appeal did not detect any illegitimacy for the punishment of him on charge of “being a member of a terrorist organization.”
The verdict was referred to the Court of Cassation.
Court of Cassation Chief of Public Prosecutor’s Office presented its letter of notification to the Court of Cassation 16th Criminal Chambers in the case where Karayeğen was being tried as well.
Chief of Public Prosecutors Office’s letter of notification at December 23rd, 2019 requested the sentences of Ahmet Turan Alkan, Mümtazer Türköne, Mustafa Ünal along with Karayeğen for “terrorist organisation membership” to be upheld.
Chief Public Prosecutors Office also requested that the decision against Şahin Alpay and Ali Bulaç for “terrorist organisation membership” to be reversed and Alpay and Bulaç to be tried for “knowingly and willingly aiding FETÖ/PDY armed terrorist organisation without partaking in the hierarchical structure of the organisation”.
The letter requested the acquittal decision for columnists Lale Sarıibrahimoğlu, Nuriye Ural, İhsan Duran Dağı and Orhan Kemal Cengiz to be upheld as well whereas it requested the release decision for Mehmet Özdemir to be reversed.