Oğuz Usluer

Oğuz Usluer started out as a journalist as night editor at Channel D. He later worked as a producer at Show TV, executive producer at Star TV, internal production coordinator at TV8 and news coordinator at Kanaltürk. After briefly working as an editor at ATV, he started working at Haber Türk TV. He worked as the news director and executive producer at Haber Türk TV.

Usluer was detained on 11 December 2016 on allegations of “being affiliated with FETO media organisation” as part of the investigation commenced by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul. Custody procedures lasted for more than two weeks. Usluer was remanded on 28 December 2016 on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. He was taken to the Silivri Closed High Security Prison.

Usluer spent approximately one month in prison awaiting the indictment concerning him to be completed. The indictment completed on 16 January 2017 charged him with “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. The prosecution demanded that Usluer be sentenced to imprisonment of between five years and 10 years.

Usluer was released pending trial at the first hearing of the trial on 31 March 2017. However, he was once again detained before having been released from the prison over a new investigation concerning him. The custody procedures lasted for 14 days. He was once again remanded in custody over the charges of “attempting to destroy the constitutional order” and “attempting to destroy the Government of the Republic of Turkey” on 14 April 2017.

The second indictment charged Usluer with “attempting to destroy the constitutional order” and “attempting to destroy the government”. The prosecution demanded that Usluer be sentenced to two aggravated life sentences.

The two indictments were merged.

Usluer was sentenced to imprisonment of seven years, six months on charges of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” at the end of the trial process on 8 March.

The court of appeals approved the imprisonment sentence on 22 October 2018. The Court of Cassation finalised the verdict on 16 March 2020.

Usluer has been serving the prison sentence as a convict at Istanbul Silivri Prison.

"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”.

Oğuz Usluer, the former news coordinator of Haber Türk TV, was one of the people under investigation.

Usluer was detained in Istanbul on 11 December 2016. Custody procedures lasted for more than two weeks. He was brought before the court on 28 December 2016. He was referred to the court to be remanded following the prosecutor’s questioning. He was remanded on 28 December 2016 on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.

Usluer was taken to the Silivri Closed High Security Prison.

Usluer spent approximately one month in prison awaiting the indictment concerning him to be completed. The indictment concerning 29 defendants, 27 of whom were journalists, including Usluer was completed on 16 January 2017.

The indictment concerning 29 defendants, of whom 27 were journalists, including Oğuz Usluer, former news coordinator of Haber Türk TV, was completed by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul 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 concerning Usluer started on page 183 of the indictment and toon only one page. The indictment included information on Usluer’s start to his career in journalism and his employment at Show TV, Star TV, TV8, Kanaltürk, ATV and Haber Türk.

The indictment listed two outputs from the social media account “fuatavni”. The outputs are as follows:

.“[It was] completely designed after the 17 December operation. HT executive producer O. Usluer was replaced and forced to take leave. News director C. Ulus was moved to a passive position. Deputy executive producer A. Kılıç was taken off the news and sent to Show TV”.
.“Turgay Ciner said to Editor-in-Chief Oğuz Usluer ‘we’ll be blind to Gezi [protests], we got a call from the top about how to report it’.”

The Twitter account named “Fuat Avni” featured heavily on the agenda between February 2014 and July 2016 with its outputs regarding the government, the judiciary and law enforcement at a time when the Justice and Development Party and the “Fetullah Gülen congregation” diverged. The Twitter account was blocked by a court order. However, other accounts were registered under various names. Many people were put on trial on allegations that they were the administrators of the account.

The indictment stated that the organisation was “owning up to” Usluer with these outputs.

The indictment charged Usluer with “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” in line with Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code. The prosecution demanded that Usluer be sentenced to imprisonment of between five years and 10 years. It was also demanded that Usluer “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 are journalists, including Oğuz Usluer, the former news coordinator of Haber Türk TV, commenced with the first hearing at the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 27-31 March 2017. Usluer had been in prison for approximately three months when he first stood trial.

Attorney Ali Deniz Ceylan stated that the president of the court for the trial had detained Oğuz Usluer along with Atilla Taş, Murat Aksoy 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 the 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 applause, the president of the court reacted by saying: “Who do you think you’re applauding?”

The final hearing of the trial took place on 31 March 2017. The prosecutor for the hearing demanded that 13 journalists, including Usluer, be released pending trial. The court added eight more journalists to the 13 people to be released pending trial. Thus, 21 journalists were released. The court prohibited the journalists from travelling abroad.

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 judgment. 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 Usluer whose release the prosecutor for the hearing had demanded and the court ruled accordingly. The indictment charged Usluer with “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.

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

The journalists for whom a release order was issued were taken to the Istanbul Directorate of Security on Vatan Boulevard while their families waited for them outside Silivri High Security Prison. The custody procedures lasted for two weeks.

12 of the 13 journalists who were detained again after their release were brought before the court following the custody procedures 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.

Oğuz Usluer, who was detained despite the release order, was released pending trial following the custody procedures.

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, 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 July 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.

THE SECOND INDICTMENT

Meanwhile, the second indictment concerning the 13 journalists, including Oğuz Usluer, who were ordered to be released at the end of the first hearing of the trial, but were detained again as part of a new investigation was presented to the same court on 5 June 2017.

The allegations against Usluer started on page 293 of the second indictment. Similar to the first indictment, the second indictment also listed the media outlets Usluer had worked at. It was stated that Usluer had a Social Security Institution registration with the company he worked at and the company was shut down following the military coup attempt.

It was stated that Usluer did not have an account at Bank Asya, which had been found in many court rulings to be “one of the FETO’s financial institutions’‘. However, it was asserted that Usluer’s wife had an account at the said bank.

It was also asserted there were records indicating that Usluer had used the ByLock application that had been found in many court rulings “to be a communication tool used by FETO”. It was asserted that Usluer “had communicated with 22 people who were being tried over FETO”.

The indictment asserted that Usluer had participated in demonstrations that took place outside the Istanbul Security Directorate when Bugün TV and Kanaltürk channels were shut down. It was asserted that the rally was “held by organisation members”.

The indictment charged Oğuz Usluer with “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” in accordance with Article 309/1 and 312/1 of the Turkish Penal Code. The prosecution demanded that Usluer be sentenced to two aggravated life sentences.

The first hearing of the trial for the second indictment took place on 16 August 2017. The court ordered the prosecution concerning the journalists to continue by merging the two indictments.

Usluer made his defensive statement at this hearing. He stated that there was no evidence indicating he “attempted a coup”. Stating that he can speak to anybody as a journalist, Usluer said the following: “I am a journalist, and journalists communicate with everybody. We report on anything we consider should be reported for the benefit of the public.” The court ordered the trial to continue by merging the two indictments at the end of the hearing.

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. The hearing began with the president of the court reading the documents received by the court.

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 at this hearing.

The opinion of the prosecution demanded that Usluer be acquitted of the 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 Usluer be sentenced on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.

Following the opinion of the prosecution, journalists’ attorneys objected to the sentence being demanded despite some of the evidence being in favour of the journalists. Attorneys also stated that there was no tangible evidence concerning the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.

The fourth hearing of the trial took place on 22-23 February 2018. Usluer, who was alleged to “have used the ByLock application” stated in his defensive statement that there were inconsistencies between the report provided by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority and the police report. He stated that the information on locations, time of connections and IP numbers were different in both reports. Usluer continued his defensive statement as follows:

“The ByLock reports do not contain any assessments or signatures for some reason. If an expert were present, the problem would be solved. However, our request for an expert was rejected. According to the report, I never even set my phone to airplane mode once in six months. One day, I used the internet for longer than 24 hours. One night, I used the ByLock application 550 times from 3.52 a.m. to 8.00 a.m. at the Harp Akademileri Tüneli [Military Academy Tunnel] on the TEM [Trans-European Motorway]. I am being accused over such unrealistic data.”

Stating that “people who previously praised the Fethullah Gülen movement had not come under any investigation”, Usluer continued: “Where they have been tricked and stumbled, we are being drowned. We, the victims of those lies, are being handcuffed. I have one request from the court: Let the court establish that I did not use the ByLock application. Let justice prevail.”

The final hearing of the trial took place on 7-8 March 2018. The panel of judges delivered its ruling on 8 March 2018.

Usluer was sentenced to imprisonment of seven years and six months on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.

Usluer was acquitted of the 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, Usluer 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 initial release order.

The court ruled that Usluer should continue to be held in remand following the ruling.

The Appeals Process

Oğuz Usluer’s attorneys launched an appeal against the imprisonment verdict at the court of appeals.

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

The 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”.

The Court of Cassation Process

Usluer’s attorneys brought the approved imprisonment sentence before the Court of Cassation.

The appeals process was conducted by the 16th Penal Chamber of the Court of Cassation. The attorneys demanded that the appeals process be conducted by means of hearings. However, their demands were rejected. The Chamber delivered its ruling on 16 March 2020.

The Chamber approved the prison sentence concerning Oğuz Usluer.

The Court of Cassation ruled that the procedures concerning Usluer were carried out lawfully, all evidence was collected in accordance with the law, and the defensive statements were heard in full. It was stated that the ruling was based on unequivocal, consistent and non-conflicting data.

The imprisonment sentence concerning Usluer was then finalised. Usluer had been in prison for three years and three months when the prison sentence was finalised.

Usluer is currently serving his sentence as a convict at Sincan Prison.

"Media Structure" Trial (Reasoned Judgement)

"Media Structure" Trial (The Court of Cassation's Judgement)

"Media Structure" Trial (Indictment)

"Media Structure" Trial (Indictment)

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