Turhan Günay

Turhan Günay was the editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaper’s literature supplement. He has been working as a journalist since 1968. He worked for the Günaydın newspaper and Gırgır comic. He was prosecuted in the Cumhuriyet trial and accused of “aiding a terrorist organization.” He was imprisoned for 9 months. The Constitutional Court ruled that his rights were violated. During his 50-year journalism career he was subjected to 787 trials. He was acquitted in all of them. He was also acquitted in the Cumhuriyet trial.

Cumhuriyet Newspaper Trial

Upon the request of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Istanbul 5th Criminal ruled to search the Cumhuriyet Foundation’s headquarter along with the residences and offices of some of the Cumhuriyet newspaper’s managers to confiscate allegedly criminal items on Oct. 31, 2016. Turhan Günay, the editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet’s supplement, “Cumhuriyet Kitap” was among them.

In accordance with the court ruling, the police searched Turhan Günay’s residence and office, confiscated his mobile phone, tablet, and computer, and took Günay under custody.

Turhan Günay testified to the public prosecutor, Murat İnam at the Istanbul Police Headquarters, where he was detained on Oct. 4, 2016.

In his testimony, Günay said he had been working for the Cumhuriyet newspaper since 1985 and has published the Cumhuriyet Kitap since 1992, in which he published interviews with authors and book reviews. Noting he had never been a board member of the Cumhuriyet Foundation, Günay said that he “was only a board member of the Yenigün News Agency in 2011 and 2013, and through these years the newspaper had never published articles or reports in favor of terrorist organizations.”

“I have never been in the editorial board of the Cumhuriyet newspaper. Therefore, I had no authority over the editorial policy of the newspaper. Thus, I have nothing to the with the headlines, reports, articles and social media posts that were subjected to the investigation,” said Günay.

Along with the other seven Cumhuriyet workers, Günay was sent to the Istanbul 9th Criminal Court of Peace on a request for arrest on charges of “aiding and abetting an organization knowingly and willingly, although he does not belong to the structure of that organization” (TPC 220/7) on Oct. 4, 2016.

The court ruled to detain Günay for “aiding and abetting an organization knowingly and willingly, although he does not belong to the structure of that organization,” Günay appealed the verdict on Oct. 14, 2016. The Istanbul 10th Criminal Court of Peace rejected the appeal. Günay’s demand for release on December 2, 2016, was also rejected by the Istanbul 7th Criminal Court of Peace.

As the discussion surrounding the operation against the Cumhuriyet newspaper continued, it was revealed that the investigation’s prosecutor, Murat İnam, was a defendant in a trial along with 53 other judges and prosecutors for “FETÖ’s plot on the Selam Tevhid investigation.” In the trial, which was continuing in the Court of Cassation’s 16th Penal Chamber, an aggravated life sentence and 67 years 3 months of jail time were recommended for 10 charges, including “attempting to abolish the government, political and military espionage, and being a member of FETÖ.”

Upon this development, İnam was dismissed from the investigation and replaced with Mehmet Akif Ekinci, the deputy of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor, and Yasemin Baba, a junior prosecutor with the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued an indictment against 18 Cumhuriyet employees and managers, including Turhan Günay on April 3, 2017. In the indictment, the prosecutors recommended punishment for Turhan Günay on charges of “aiding and abetting an organization knowingly and willingly, although he does not belong to the structure of that organization” and the “abuse of trust” (TPC 155).

In the indictment, it was claimed that Turhan Günay was a board member of the Cumhuriyet Foundation and had primary authority to sign for the Cumhuriyet’s publishing company, that he collaborated with the other suspects who were in charge after 2013, and therefore he had legal liability for the Cumhuriyet newspaper’s editorial policy.

The Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court accepted the indictment on April 19, 2017.

The first hearing of the trial was held in the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court in Çağlayan on July 24, 2017.

Günay defended himself on July 26, 2017. In his defense, Günay said:

“From day one, the Cumhuriyet newspaper has always faced oppression from the political authorities. It is a newspaper that has been shut down and prosecuted several times since its foundation. The newspaper, which has always supported the Republic and all its institutions, never refrained from criticizing governments for their wrongdoings. This critical approach continued both in İlhan Selçuk’s [former chairman of the Executive Board of the Cumhuriyet Foundation, who is now deceased] term and today.”

Günay who has been working for the Cumhuriyet newspaper for 33 years, noted he was appointed to the editor-in-chief position of the newspaper’s book supplement by İlhan Selçuk in 1992. He said he has been in charge of the supplement for the past 25 years, and that when the Cumhuriyet Kitap started its publishing life, there had been 1,500 book genres published per year in Turkey, and after the supplement, the publishing sector was also revived.

“In 2002, the number of the genres published in a year increased to 7500 because we were guiding, advising and supporting the publishers. Today, there are 55,000 genres published per year in Turkey,” Günay said.

Günay reiterated that the prosecutors mentioned him as a board member of the Cumhuriyet Foundation in the indictment, and said, “I have never been a board member of the Cumhuriyet Foundation. I was only a board member of the Yenigün News Agency in 2011-2013, and only responsible for the Cumhuriyet newspapers’ Cumhuriyet Books branch. I didn’t have any further responsibilities.”

Regarding the accusation of having communication logs with four people who were investigated for FETÖ affiliation [Fethullahist Terrorist Organization - The followers of Fethullah Gülen, an Islamist living in self-imposed exile in the US that is accused of orchestrating a 15th of July coup attempt. The Turkish government declared FETÖ as a terrorist organization and it was approved by Turkish courts after 2016], Günay defended himself in the following terms:

“Two of these four phone calls were for invitations for the book fairs. Doğan Ramazan Yalçıner, I guess worked for the Golden Orange. He invited me to the fair. There were three book fairs in Antalya, I believe. I went there. That phone call was about that fair. The second one is Mustafa Koç. He was working for the Kayseri Municipality. I remember clearly. Because I have never been in Kayseri in my life. I have only passed through it by bus. First time was in the 1960s. I was going to Göreme with my parents. The other time was when we were heading to the Kayseri airport from Haci Bektaş, after the funeral of brother İlhan [Selçuk]. That’s all. So I have never stepped on the ground of Kayseri. That friend invited me over. But I was so busy in those days, that’s why I couldn’t go. That phone call is the one where he called me. One of the logs was from Ali Çolak. Ali Çolak was one of my friends who worked for the Zaman newspaper’s [a newspaper that was shut down for alleged Gülenist affiliation after the coup attempt in 2016] culture department. He wrote a book and called me from the newspaper but couldn’t reach me, so he left his number. So I called him. ‘My book was just published, I can send a copy if you are interested,’ said Çolak. That’s all. The fourth call is from Rıfat Şahiner, an academic from the Yıldız University. He is a translator. Also, he published books. He also called for that, I believe. I talked with him, right. But that’s all. Just because of these reasons, these four calls, the alleged membership of the foundation and my position in the publishing company, I am in jail.”

In the hearing, which was held on July 28, 2017, the prosecutor asked for the release of Günay citing existing evidence and the possible change of the crime’s characteristic.

The court ruled to release seven defendants, including Günay on July 28, 2017, with a travel ban under judicial control.

Prosecutor Hacı Hasan Bölükbaşı explained his opinion of the accusation in the seventh hearing of the trial, which was held on March 16, 2018, and recommended an acquittal for Turhan Günay.

The Verdict

The final hearing of the trial was held on April 24, 2018. In his last defense, Günay said he was not guilty and asked for his acquittal.

The court reached a verdict on April 25, 2018. Turhan Günay was acquitted for all charges.

The Constitutional Court reached a verdict for Turhan Günay’s individual application that was dated Dec. 26, 2016, on Jan. 11, 2018. The Superior Court ruled that according to the 19th article of the Constitution, Günay’s personal liberty and security was violated.

In the reasoning of the verdict, it was stated that [the violation occurred] because the accusations against Turhan Günay were based on his position at the Foundation and/or the publishing company, therefore, he was allegedly responsible for editorial decisions concerning headlines, reports and articles. In the verdict, it was reiterated that the applicant noted he had never been a board member of the foundation, and it was stated that:

“The applicant said he has been responsible for the newspaper’s book supplement for years but has never been in the editorial board, therefore he had no contributions regarding the determination of editorial policy. The investigative authority couldn’t provide any information or document contrary to the applicant’s aforementioned defense - regarding the accusations of whether he was in a managing position after 2013, the date when the alleged editorial shift began and his alleged influence on the editorial policy. Hence, the applicant’s name wasn’t on the lists of the Executive Board of the Cumhuriyet Foundation.”

In the verdict, the prosecutor’s accusation also included that “the applicant had communication logs with four people who were investigated for affiliation with FEÖ/PDY and a person who was one of the founders of a TV station that was affiliated with the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a militant Kurdish group] sent 600 TL to the applicant.”

The following terms were included in the verdict:

“In addition to this, the dates and the contents of the phone calls weren’t included in the indictment. And the connection with the PKK and the aforementioned person who transferred the money was too circuitous. Moreover, the investigative authority couldn’t provide any information or document contrary to the applicant’s defense against the accusations (that the phone calls were about the newspaper’s book supplement and the money was about his daughter’s business). In this respect, the Superior Court came to a conclusion regarding the existing documents related to this tangible case, the investigative authority failed to present ‘strong evidence of a crime.’ Regarding the aforementioned reasons, without presenting strong evidence of the crime, the application of the arrest measure was violating the Constitution’s article 19 titled ‘personal liberty and security’.”

Cumhuriyet Newspaper Trial (Indictment)

Cumhuriyet Newspaper Trial (Reasoned Judgement)

Cumhuriyet Newspaper Trial (The Constitutional Court's Judgement)

Cumhuriyet Newspaper Trial (Notification of the Prosecutor's Office (CoC))

Cumhuriyet Newspaper Trial (The Court of Cassation's Judgement)

Cumhuriyet Newspaper Trial (The Court of Appeal's Judgement)