Murat Aksoy

Murat Aksoy was born in Erzincan. He graduated from the Department of Business Administration at Erciyes University in 1999. He completed his master’s degree on human rights at Bilgi University.

Murat Aksoy started journalism as a publishing coordinator at Yeni Ufuk magazine in 2005. He produced programmes for Yön FM radio. He started working as an editor at Yeni Şafak newspaper in 2006. Aksoy wrote columns for Yeni Şafak between 2009 and 2014. Aksoy’s columns were published on the T24 internet news website for eight months in 2014. He started writing columns for Millet newspaper, which was established in October 2014 and was later shut down. He was fired from the newspaper after a “public administrator” was appointed to the newspaper. Aksoy produced and hosted programmes for Halk TV. His articles were later published on the Haberdar internet news website. Aksoy started writing columns for Yeni Hayat newspaper in June 2016. Aksoy was a consultant for Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the Republican People’s Party Chairperson [CHP] for some time. Aksoy produces and hosts programmes for Artı Gerçek TV.

Millet and Yeni Hayat newspapers where Aksoy worked at were closed down by statutory decrees that were put into effect as part of the State of Emergency rule declared following the military coup attempt on 15 July 2016. During the state of emergency period, the government shut down many media outlets by statutory decrees that were put into effect without the parliament’s approval.

Aksoy was detained on 30 August 2016 on allegations of “being affiliated with FETO media structure” as part of the investigation launched by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul. He was placed in custody on 3 September 2016 on the charge of “knowingly and willingly aiding the armed organisation despite not being a part of its hierarchical structure”. Aksoy was taken to the Silivri Closed High Security Prison.

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

He was released pending trial at the first hearing of the trial on 31 March 2017. However, before having been released from prison, Aksoy was detained again as part of a new investigation. The custody procedures lasted for 14 days. Aksoy 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 Aksoy be sentenced to two aggravated life sentences.

The two indictments were merged.

He was released at the hearing of the trial held on 24 October 2017. Aksoy had been in prison for 14 months when he was released.

At the end of the trial, Aksoy was sentenced to imprisonment of twenty five months on the charge of “knowingly and willingly aiding the armed terrorist organisation despite not being a member of its hierarchical structure” on 8 March 2018.

The court of appeals approved the imprisonment sentence on 22 October 2018. Aksoy’s sentence was then finalised. He was imprisoned again on 22 November 2018.

Aksoy completed his imprisonment sentence on 4 January 2019 and was released on probation.

The Court of Cassation approved the imprisonment sentence after the sentence was completed on 16 March 2020.

"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”.

Murat Aksoy, a writer of the now-closed Yeni Hayat newspaper, was one of the people under investigation.

Aksoy was detained in Istanbul on 30 August 2016. He gave a statement at the security directorate on 1 September 2016. He was questioned concerning his statements in a programme on Halk TV and his columns at Millet and Yeni Hayat newspapers. It was asserted that Aksoy “had shared outputs in favour of FETO/PDY on his Twitter account but had deleted them shortly after the military coup attempt”. He was also charged with the outputs that were allegedly deleted. Aksoy said in his statement that “he had always defended democracy and civilian space”. He stated that “he had always been against the congregation using its power to seize the state”. Aksoy stated that the content of his writing should be what is important rather than the platforms on which it appeared.

Aksoy was brought before the prosecutor’s office on 2 September 2016. He made his defensive statement as follows: “I do not have any connections with the congregation or the organisation. For me, the organisation where I work does not matter. What matters is having an environment where I can express my ideas.”

The prosecutor’s office referred Aksoy to court to be remanded the same day. During his questioning at the 1st Criminal Court of Peace of Istanbul, Aksoy stated that he had deleted the social media outputs that formed the basis of the accusations due to personal reasons. He added that “he did not have any direct or indirect connections with the FETO organisation”.

Aksoy was placed in custody on 3 September 2016 by the ruling of the 1st Criminal Court of Peace of Istanbul. Aksoy was charged with “knowingly and willingly aiding the armed organisation despite not being a part of its hierarchical structure”. Aksoy was taken to the Silivri Closed High Security Prison.

He spent approximately six months in prison awaiting the indictment to be completed. The indictment concerning 29 people, 27 of whom were journalists, including Murat Aksoy, was completed on 16 January 2017.

The indictment concerning 29 defendants, 27 of whom were journalists, including Murat Aksoy, a writer for the now-closed Yeni Hayat newspaper, 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 Aksoy started on page 168 of the indictment. The indictment stated that Aksoy had worked at Yeni Şafak, Taraf, Millet and Yeni Hayat newspapers, and he had a personal internet website. The same section stated that Millet newspaper was later shut down by a statutory decree on allegations of “being FETO’s media organ” Records of Aksoy’s travels abroad, his social media outputs and information concerning his bank account activities were cited as evidence.

The indictment listed Aksoy’s statements at a television programme broadcasted on Halk TV in September 2015. The indictment asserted the following concerning the statements: “Aksoy stated that there were many alternatives following the 1 November elections, and one of the alternatives was staging a coup. It was observed that the suspect’s statement was criticised by some media organisations at the time as ‘a coup threat by the parallelist writer’”.

The indictment also stated that Aksoy had left Yeni Şafak newspaper due to his views regarding the investigation in 2014 concerning ministers, government officials and their children, publicly known as the “17-25 December corruption operation”.

It was asserted that Aksoy “had created public opinion against the Republic of Turkey at home and abroad in line with FETO/PDY structure propaganda”.

The indictment asserted that Aksoy “had altered perceptions as if the Republic of Turkey supported ISIS” in his articles. The indictment listed Aksoy’s following article concerning the allegation: “For example, the suspect had stated that the Republic of Turkey supported the ISIS terrorist organisation in his article dated October 2015 under the headline, ‘AKP: The Soft ISIS’ published in Millet newspaper.” This section also listed Aksoy’s article under the headline, “ISIS: The AKP’s Good Guys”.

The indictment cited as evidence Aksoy’s article under the headline “The Global Jihad of the AKP’s Good Guys”, which was published in Yeni Hayat newspaper on 3 July 2016. The indictment asserted that Aksoy “had altered perceptions as if the Republic of Turkey supported ISIS Terrorist Organisation” in his articles.

It was asserted that Aksoy “had worked as a columnist at media organs belonging to FETO/PDY, had attended programmes broadcasted on Can Erzincan TV, and had created public opinion against the state and the government at home and abroad”.

The indictment listed social media outputs on Aksoy’s social media account. This section asserted that Aksoy had “deleted” his outputs shared between the dates 25 July 2015 and 26 July 2016. It was asserted that Aksoy had deleted the output shared on the night of the military coup attempt on 15 July 2016 that read “We defend democracy and politics against the coup attempt. But what are the jihad calls from mosques about?” It was asserted that social media users “ had accused [Aksoy] of being a FETO member over this output”. Based upon this information, the indictment asserted that “a statement in this manner was publicly acknowledged as in keeping with the FETO organisation”. The indictment listed the following outputs as elements of crime:
. “One cannot help asking, what more can @fuatavni_f do?”
. “Bank Asya was seized not by law, but by politics.”

The indictment listed Aksoy’s articles published in various media organs in 2014, 2015 and 2016. It was asserted that Aksoy “had written many articles in line with the organisation’s statements in Yeni Hayat and Millet newspapers that were media organs of the organisation”. Some of the article headlines in the indictment are as follows:

. “Non-Armed Gains Organisation” [a play on NGO]
. “AKP’s Good Guys”
. “Raping the corpse of law”
. “Modern Independence Courts”
. “Bank Asya: the last victim of confiscations.”
. “17-25 December and Middle Eastern Turkey”
. “The fact Berkin revealed: Turkey is mentally divided”

The indictment charged Aksoy with “membership of an armed organisation” in accordance with Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code. The prosecution demanded that Aksoy be sentenced to imprisonment of between five years and 10 years. It was also demanded that Aksoy “be deprived of the enjoyment of certain rights” in accordance with Article 53 of the Turkish Penal Code.

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

The trial concerning 29 individuals, of whom 27 were journalists, including Murat Aksoy, a writer of the now-closed Yeni Hayat newspaper, commenced with the first hearing at the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 27-31 March 2017. Aksoy had been in prison for approximately eight months when he first stood trial.

Attorney Ali Deniz Ceylan stated that the president of the court for the trial had detained Murat Aksoy, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu Atilla Taş 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?”

Stated that “he was not a member of any organisation”. He stated that writing for the now-closed newspapers was not a crime and those newspapers were media outlets that were established within the legal framework until they were closed down. Aksoy added that if those media outlets were criminal tools, those who should be standing trial were the managers of those newspapers.

The prosecutor for the hearing demanded that 13 journalists including Murat Aksoy be released pending trial in the final session of the hearing on 31 March 2017. The court added eight more journalists to the 13 people to be released pending trial. A total of 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 Murat Aksoy, whose release the prosecutor for the hearing had demanded and the court ruled accordingly. Aksoy was charged with “attempting a coup”.

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

12 out of 13 journalists including Murat Aksoy 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 in line with 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 Aksoy had multiple conversations with 17 people “who were identified to have used the ByLock application that had been found in many court rulings to be a communication tool used by FETO”. These names included journalists such as Mutlu Çölgeçen, Said Sefa and Mehmet Gündem, who were prosecuted as part of the same investigation as Aksoy.

Had participated in the demonstrations that took place outside the Istanbul Security Directorate when a public administrator was appointed to Zaman newspaper’s management. It was asserted that the rally was “held by organisation members”.

Aksoy 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 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. Within this scope, the prosecution demanded that Aksoy be sentenced to two aggravated life sentences. It was also demanded that Aksoy’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. 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. At the end of the trial, the panel of judges ruled that Murat Aksoy along with Atilla Taş be released pending trial. The ruling was delivered taking into account “the duration of imprisonment and the possibility that the classification of the offence might change”. Aksoy and Taş were prohibited from leaving the country. The court ruled that Aksoy be subject to judicial supervision in the form of appearing in person and signing his name twice a month at the police station nearest to his place of residence.

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 demanded that Murat Aksoy 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 Aksoy be sentenced on the charges of “knowingly and willingly aiding the armed terrorist organisation despite not being a member of its hierarchical structure”.

The final hearing of the trial took place on 7-8 March 2018. Murat Aksoy made his final defensive statement on 7 March 2018. Stating that he highlighted the goals of a “more free”, “more democratic” and “more equitable” Turkey in his articles, Aksoy stated that he expressed his own opinions and did not receive instructions from anyone.

After saying: “As an Alawite, I defended the rights and freedoms of conservatives. I thought that doing so was the same as defending my own rights and freedoms”, Aksoy stated that he wrote the same articles in both Yeni Şafak newspaper and T24 e-newspaper and expressed only his own opinions. Underlining that there was no tangible evidence against him, Aksoy also said: “Our bodies and minds are free, but our profession is still imprisoned. Being prosecuted in this case hangs over my head like Damocles’ Sword in terms of continuing my profession.”

At the end of the hearing, the journalists were asked about their final statements regarding the opinion of the prosecution. Aksoy’s final statment is as follows: “I’m a journalist. My opposition and criticism are solely related to the political power’s rights and wrongs. If I’m to be sentenced for this, I have nothing to say. My final word is Fenerbahçe [F.C.]”.

Following Aksoy’s words, the panel of judges delivered its ruling and sentenced 23 defendants on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organisation”.

The court ruled that Murat Aksoy 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”.

Thus, Aksoy was acquitted of the charges in the second indictment that was prepared after the journalists who were released in the first hearing of the trial were remanded over the second investigation despite the release order.

However, Aksoy was sentenced to imprisonment of twenty five months on the charge of “knowingly and willingly aiding the armed terrorist organisation despite not being a member of its hierarchical structure”. However, Aksoy had been charged with “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” in the first indictment.

The Appeals Process

Journalist Murat Aksoy launched an appeal against the imprisonment sentence at the court of appeals.

The Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul also appealed against the imprisonment sentence concerning Aksoy.

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

Aksoy’s 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”.

However, the Chamber also rejected the prosecutor’s objection against the ruling concerning Murat Aksoy.

Thus, the imprisonment sentence concerning Aksoy was finalised following the rejection of attorneys’ appeals and prosecutor’s objections.

As his sentence was finalised, Aksoy was detained again on 22 November 2018.

He was released after completing his sentence on 4 January 2019.

The Court of Cassation Process

The appeal of the journalists including Murat Aksoy was examined by the 16th Penal Chamber of the Court of Cassation. However, their demands were rejected. The Chamber delivered its ruling on 16 March 2020.

The imprisonment sentence concerning Murat Aksoy was approved by the Chamber.

When the Court of Cassation approved the imprisonment sentence concerning Aksoy, he had already completed his sentence.

The Constitutional Court Process

Journalist Murat Aksoy filed applications with the Constitutional Court while on remand on 29 November 2016 and 23 May 2017.

He asserted that “the detention and custody measures concerning him were not lawful, and his access to the investigation file was restricted” and demanded the court to determine “whether the right to freedom and security had been violated”.

Aksoy also claimed that “his freedom of speech and press had been violated” because “journalistic activities and acts that fell under the freedom of speech were subjected to the detention process”.

The Constitutional Court delivered its ruling by merging the two applications. The court delivered its ruling after Aksoy had completed his sentence on 2 May 2019.

The court ruled that Aksoy’s “right to freedom and security” and “freedom of speech and press” had been violated. The court also ruled that Aksoy be paid TRY 40,000 in compensation.

When the Constitutional Court delivered its ruling that Aksoy’s rights had been violated, Aksoy had already been released after completing his sentence.

"Media Structure" Trial (Reasoned Judgement)

"Media Structure" Trial (Defense)

"Media Structure" Trial (The Constitutional Court's 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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