İhsan Duran Dağı was a writer at the now-closed Zaman newspaper.
Dağı graduated from the Department of Public Administration at Gazi University. He completed his post-graduate degree at Lancaster University in 1989 and received his PhD in 1993. He has been working as a professor at the Department of International Relations, Middle East Technical University since 2004.
Zaman newspaper was taken into state administration by court order before the coup attempt on 15 July 2016. State administrators were already appointed to many media outlets by court decisions before the coup attempt. The newspaper was later closed down with a Statutory Decree (KHK) issued under the State of Emergency (OHAL) declared following the coup attempt on 15 July 2016. Following the coup attempt, the government closed down many media outlets by statutory decrees issued without the approval of parliament.
Dağı was detained on 27 July 2016 as part of the investigation launched by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul against the managers and writers of the now-closed Zaman newspaper. The custody procedures lasted for four days. After his statement was taken by the prosecutor’s office on 30 July 2016, he was released the same day pending trial without appearing before the court.
The indictment dated 1 April 2017 accused Dağı of “attempting to destroy the constitutional order”, “attempting to destroy the Grand National Assembly of Turkey” and “attempting to destroy the Government of the Republic of Turkey” by means of coercion and violence and “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” over three columns written by him which were published in Zaman newspaper. The prosecution demanded that Dağı be sentenced to three aggravated life sentences and imprisonment of between seven years and six months and 15 years.
At the end of the trial, he was acquitted of all charges on 6 July 2018.
The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul objected to the ruling, but the court of appeals approved Dağı’s acquittal. The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul then filed an objection with the Court of Cassation, while the Court of Cassation Prosecutor’s Office demanded Dağı’s acquittal be approved. The examination of the Court of Cassation concerning his acquittal is underway.
_The Republic of Turkey held the structure known as the Fethullah Gülen Congregation responsible for the military coup attempt of 15 July 2016. On 20 July 2016, the National Security Council determined that the military coup attempt “was initiated by FETÖ through 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 similar allegations by Statutory Decrees (KHK) that were put into effect without parliament’s approval.
The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul launched an investigation on İhsan Duran Dağı along with other writers and managers of the now-closed Zaman newspaper. Dağı was detained on 27 July 2016 on charges of “membership of the FETÖ/PDY terrorist organisation”. He was detained for four days.
Dağı was released pending trial by the prosecutor’s office on 30 July 2016 without appearing before the court.
Meanwhile, on 1 December 2016, 11th Judge’s Office of Criminal Court of Peace of Istanbul confiscated the assets of 24 individuals, including İhsan Duran Dağı, on the grounds that they “provided financing for the terrorist organisation or had acquired assets with the benefit of being a member of a terrorist organisation “.
The indictment concerning Dağı and writers and managers of the now-closed Zaman newspaper was completed on 10 April 2018.
The indictment against İhsan Duran Dağı started with the organization’s aim, sources of income and armed force, like many other indictments of FETÖ trials.
This section took almost 20 pages. It was mentioned that the media institutions the journalists work for are associated with FETÖ. The indictment included some other journalists who were not suspects. The charges against the defendants were later mentioned.
It was claimed that Dağı was one of the media forces of FETÖ. It was also asserted that he was taking part in the organization for removing the constitutional order, the parliament and the government.
Dağı was charged for three columns published in the Zaman newspaper. All of the columns were written after the 17-25 December corruption and bribery operation. The operation was conducted in 2013 and highly influenced the public opinion then, as the names of some cabinet members and their sons were included in the crime. In one of his columns Dağı was comparing Turkey to a plane,saying that the route of the plane had changed. He also asked whether the passengers would change the route of the plane or not. In another column, he wrote:
“I was wrong; the people I regard as advocates of freedom have become authoritarians in the last few years. Moreover, an irreversible structure, a regime is being constructed. Let alone the freedoms, I think our social peace is at stake now.”
It was stated that Dağı was not just oppositional through his columns. Though there was no explicit element of criminality in his words, it was claimed that he was exceeding the limits of freedom of press and expression. It was also asserted that his columns were violating the rights of state authorities and institutions. The columns were bearing a potential to disturb the composure, the peace and the order of the society. It was claimed that Dağı did not hesitate to call for a military coup.
The prosecutor demanded a sentence of up to three times aggravated life imprisonment and an additional imprisonment of 7.5 to 15 years for him. He was charged for “attempting to remove the constitutional order, the parliament and the Turkish Republic as well as preventing them from doing their tasks” and “being a member of an armed organization” (314/2).
The trial of İhsan Duran Dağı and the columnists and managers of the now-closed Zaman newspaper started on 18-19 September 2017 with the first hearing of the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul at the courthouse set up in Silivri Closed High Security Prison.
The second hearing of the trial took place on 8 December 2017. Dağı gave his first defensive statements at this hearing. Dağı stated that he had stopped writing columns in Zaman newspaper in 2013, after the 17/25 December bribery and corruption operation. Dağı stated that “he had quit after realising that the newspaper had become a tool for FETÖ propaganda”. He also mentioned that the contents of his columns were overlooked and he was being accused only because he wrote for Zaman newspaper for a period in the past.
The third hearing of the trial took place on 5 April 2018. During this hearing, the prosecutor presented the opinion of the prosecution as to the accusations.
The prosecution demanded that Dağı be sentenced to an aggravated life sentence for “attempting to destroy the order stipulated by the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey by means of coercion and violence”. However, in the indictment, Dağı was not only accused of “attempting to destroy the order stipulated by the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey by means of coercion and violence”, but also of “attempting to destroy the Grand National Assembly of Turkey or prevent it from fulfilling its responsibilities partially or entirely by means of coercion and violence” and “attempting to destroy the government of the Republic of Turkey or to prevent it from fulfilling its responsibilities by means of coercion and violence”. The opinion of the prosecution as to the accusations did not include the latter two charges.
It addition, the opinion of the prosecution as to the accusations demanded that Dağı should also be sentenced on charges of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. The prosecutor changed his demand concerning Dağı and four other defendants shortly after announcing the opinion of the prosecution.
The charge of “attempting to destroy the constitutional order” was also dropped for Dağı in the addendum opinion of the prosecution. The addendum opinion of the prosecution changed the allegation in the indictment from “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” to “consecutive terrorist organisation propaganda”.
The sixth and final hearing of the trial took place on 6 July 2018. Dağı was acquitted of all charges. Judicial supervision measures placed on Dağı during the proceedings were also lifted.
The Appeals Process
The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul launched an appeal against the ruling for İhsan Duran Dağı’s acquittal with the court of appeals. The 2nd Penal Chamber of the Istanbul Circuit Courts of Appeals approved the decision concerning Dağı’s acquittal on 25 June 2019.
Justification of the decision stated that the grounds for the prosecution’s objection were not found appropriate.
The Court of Cassation Process
The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul launched an appeal at the Court of Cassation after the court of appeals’ approval of the ruling regarding Dağı’s acquittal.
The Court of Cassation Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office presented its letter of notification regarding the bill of review on 23 December 2019. The letter of notification presented to the 16th Penal Chamber, which processed the appeal proceedings, demanded the approval of the ruling regarding Dağı’s acquittal.
On the other hand, the letter of notification also demanded the approval of rulings for the acquittal of columnists Lale Sarıibrahimoğlu, Nuriye Ural and Orhan Kemal Cengiz. It was demanded that the decision concerning the acquittal of Mehmet Özdemir be overturned.
The letter of notification demanded the approval of the imprisonment sentences for İbrahim Karayeğen, Ahmet Turan Alkan, Mümtazer Türköne and Mustafa Ünal on charges of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. Demanding the ruling concerning Şahin Alpay and Ali Bulaç on charges of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” to be overturned, the Office of the Chief Public Prosecutor stated that Alpay and Bulaç should be put on trial on charges of “knowingly and willingly aiding the FETÖ/PDY armed terrorist organisation despite not being members of its hierarchical structure”.
The 16th Penal Chamber of the Court of Cassation overturned the imprisonment sentences for Bulaç, Alpay and Türköne. The Court of Cassation’s decision stated that the proceedings concerning Bulaç, Albay and Türköne should be based on the charge of “knowingly and willingly aiding the FETÖ/PDY armed terrorist organisation despite not being members of its hierarchical structure.” It was stated that the examination of the local court on the case was lacking in this respect.
Mümtaz Türköne, who had been remanded in custody, was released pending trial with the Court of Cassation’s ruling.
The Court of Cassation’s reasoned decision has not been disclosed.
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