Lalezar Sarıibrahimoğlu is a columnist for the Zaman Newspaper. She was in pretrial detention for 2.5 months. She faced coup and terror related charges along with other writers and managers of the Zaman Newspaper. The prosecutor sought a sentence of up to three times aggravated life imprisonment and also an additional 7.5 to 15 years of imprisonment for “being a member of an armed organization” (314/2). She was acquitted of all charges.
Sarıibrahimoğlu was detained on July 27, 2016. She remained in detention for four days. Sarıibrahimoğlu denied charges of “supporting the coup” at the İstanbul Fourth Criminal Court of Peace. She was jailed on July 30, 2016 and sent to the Bakırköy Women’s Prison.
The reasoning for the pretrial detention was to write articles in praise of FETÖ and to continue to write for the newspaper even though Ekrem Dumanlı, the executive of the newspaper, was being prosecuted. Interestingly, the reason for her pretrial detention was based on the fact that Dumanlı fled abroad. As a result of the regular pretrial detention evaluation, she was released on October 12, 2016 by İstanbul 10th Criminal Court of First Instance with judicial control.
The indictment against Sarıibrahimoğlu was completed on April 10, 2018 by İsmet Bozkurt, the prosecutor of the Bureau of Terror and Organized Crime in Istanbul. The 64-page indictment was sent to the İstanbul 13th Criminal Court on April 11, 2017, and was accepted on April 24, 2017.
The indictment against Sarıinrahimoğlu started with the organization’s purpose, structure, sources of income, and armed power, as in many of the indictments in FETÖ trials. 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.
Sarıibrahimoğlu was alleged to be the media force of FETÖ. She was accused of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, the parliament and the government” for the organization. Sarıibrahimoğlu’s name was used only three times in the indictment and she was charged for one article. The following statements were mentioned in the indictment:
With the following statement, “I find it dangerous that citizens still fear being blacklisted for their opinions, beliefs. This is only possible in former communist countries with less developed dictatorships … Sarıibrahimoğlu aimed to ‘deepen the perception’ and did not merely express opposition in her article.”
The indictment stated ”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. Sarıibrahimoğlu’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 she did not hesitate to call for a military coup.
The prosecutor demanded a sentence of up to three times aggravated life imprisonment as well as 7.5 to 15 years in prison. Sarıibrahimoğlu 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 “and 7.5 to 15 years of prison for “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 the Silivri Prison. During the first hearing, the jailed defendants made their defenses. The second hearing was on December 8, 2017. Sarıibrahimoğlu said she was not working for the Zaman newspaper when the only article used as evidence in the indictment was published. She also said she would not have worked for the newspaper if she knew it was involved with a terrorist organization. She questioned how she could have known and acted on behalf of an organization that the institutions of the state also were not aware of.
The third hearing was on April 5, 2018. Prosecutor İsmet Bozkurt disclosed his opinion on the merits at this hearing. The articles that were not in the indictment were included as elements of crime.
Prosecutor Bozkurt demanded an imprisonment of 7.5 years and 15 years for “aiding the organization without participating in the hierarchical structure of it.”
The fifth hearing was on June 7-8, 2018. Sarıibrahimoğlu, made her final defense. Sarıibrahimoğlu emphasized that the Gülen movement was not considered to be an organization at the time when articles were written.
During the sixth hearing on July 6, 2018, the verdict was disclosed. The court ruled all the articles were within the freedom of the press and expression. Sarıibrahimoğlu was acquitted of all charges.
The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office objected to the decision of acquittal for Sarıibrahimoğlu at the Court of Appeal. The Istanbul Regional Courthouse’s 2nd Penal Chamber approved the decision of acquittal on June 25, 2019.