Ufuk Şanlı worked for the now-closed Aksiyon magazine and Zaman newspaper as well as Sabah, Vatan, Milliyet newspapers. He received the “Journalist of the Year” award from the Economy Journalists Association in 2012.
Aksiyon magazine and Zaman newspaper were shut down by statutory decrees issued 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.
Şanlı was detained on 27 July 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. The custody procedures lasted for two days. He was remanded on 29 July 2016 on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. He was taken to the Silivri Closed High Security Prison.
Şanlı spent approximately six months 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 Şanlı be sentenced to imprisonment of between five years and 10 years.
Şanlı 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 2018.
The court of appeals approved the imprisonment sentence on 22 October 2018. The Court of Cassation finalised the verdict on 16 March 2020.
Şanlı has been serving his prison sentence as a convict at Istanbul Silivri Prison.
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”.
Ufuk Şanlı, a correspondent for the now-closed Zaman newspaper, was one of the people under investigation.
Şanlı was detained in Istanbul on 27 July 2016.
According to the indictment, Şanlı said in his statement during the investigation process that “he expressed his concerns regarding the Ergenekon and Balyoz investigations and was labelled as an Ergenekon supporter when he expressed his opinions, which forced him to leave Aksiyon magazine”.
The custody procedures lasted for two days. Şanlı was remanded on 29 July 2016 on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. He was taken to the Silivri Closed High Security Prison.
Şanlı spent approximately six months in prison awaiting the indictment concerning him to be completed. The indictment concerning 29 defendants, 27 of whom were journalists, including Şanlı was completed on 16 January 2017.
The indictment concerning 29 defendants, of whom 27 were journalists, including Ufuk Şanlı, a correspondent for the now-closed Zaman newspaper, 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 Şanlı started on page 187 of the indictment.
It was asserted that Şanlı had used the ByLock application, which was stated in many court rulings to have been used by FETO members for communication. Şanlı’s social media outputs and bank account activities were cited among the evidence.
One of Şanlı’s outputs included in the indictment was about the investigation under which Şanlı himself was detained. Upon some media outlets revealing the list of people to be detained as part of the investigation, Şanlı wrote on social media: “It seems that a detention order was issued concerning the journalists who wrote about 17/25 December. Naturally, my name is on the list.”
The indictment also included Şanlı’s retweeting of two outputs shared by İsmail Küçükkaya and Levent Gültekin on their personal accounts. Aside from these, 14 separate outputs were listed as elements of a crime in the indictment. The indictment included the following outputs:
. “Erdoğan’s most powerful propaganda tool in the media war is the Anadolu Agency… This agency is directing the coverage of hundreds of websites and TV channels tonight…”
. “I kindly ask the judges and prosecutors of the court of peace, please appoint some brains to the public administrators :)) Or you will be humiliated before the entire world”.
. “Thanks to the prosecutors working even during the holidays, who arrest tradespeople, teachers and journalists, Turkey is now a safer country!”
. “The witch hunt did not care for holidays. There is an Operation against the Congregation in Izmir. Tarık Toros is also on the detention list”.
. “They crafted a terrorist organisation out of a TV show script and arrested Hidayet Karaca. Then a warrant for the arrest of Fethullah Gülen. Take that, ‘Advanced Democracy”.
. “Don’t forget! Judges and prosecutors, mouthpieces of the government, shut down 15 TV channels, 5 radio stations, 3 newspapers and 1 magazine in the last 9 months. -Don’t shut down-.”
. “A message of condolence full of messages from Fethullah Gülen Hocaefendi”.
. “Where there’s a public administrator, there are always the following 3 things: -Organised crime police made up of mafia scraps - Akit TV’s clowns - knockoff journalists from MİT [National Intelligence Organisation]”.
. “They used to steal the newspaper from your door ledge, now they steal the newspaper along with its building.”
The indictment also included digital materials confiscated during the raid on Şanlı’s house. However, the indictment did not include any information concerning the results of the analysis on these materials.
It was asserted that Şanlı “participated in the organisation’s operations to alter perceptions”.
The indictment charged Şanlı with “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” in line with Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code. The prosecution demanded that Şanlı be sentenced to imprisonment of between five years and 10 years. It was also demanded that Şanlı “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 people, of whom 27 were journalists, including Ufuk Şanlı, a correspondent for the now-closed Zaman newspaper, commenced with the first hearing at the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 27-31 March 2017. Şanlı 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 Ufuk Şanlı 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 be released pending trial. The court added eight more journalists to the 13 people to be released pending trial. Thus, the court ruled that 21 journalists including Abdullah Kılıç be released. It was ruled that Ufuk Şanlı should continue to be held in remand.
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 whose release the prosecutor for the hearing had demanded and the court ruled accordingly.
Thus, none of the journalists for whom release orders were issued were released on 31 March 2017.
12 of the 13 journalists including Abdullah Kılıç who were detained again after their release were brought before the court following the custody procedures on 14 April 2017. They were remanded on the same day on charges of “attempting to destroy the constitutional order” and “attempting to destroy the Government of the Republic of Turkey” by the 2nd Criminal Court of Peace of Istanbul.
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, 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 had changed once more at this hearing. 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.
Meanwhile, the second indictment concerning the 13 journalists who were ordered to be released at the first hearing of the trial, but were detained again as part of a new investigation was presented to the court on 5 June 2017.
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 continue to be held 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 Şanlı be acquitted on 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 Şanlı 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 final hearing of the trial took place on 7-8 March 2018. Şanlı made his defensive statement against the opinion of the prosecution as to the accusations. He stated that his education, which he completed 22 years ago, was cited as evidence. Şanlı stated that Nihal Bengisu Karaca and Ahmet Davutoğlu had also written articles for the now-closed Aksiyon magazine. He stated that “the Ankara office [of the magazine] was regularly visited by AKP MPs”.
Stating that he had been granted the economics journalist of the year award by Ali Babacan, the former Minister of Economy, Şanlı said: “I was victimised by being discharged without compensation from Aksiyon magazine, where I am now accused of altering perceptions.” Şanlı stated the following over allegations of being a ByLock application user:
“The ByLock examination report stated that I had installed the said application but had never used it for communication. The report provided by the security directorate claims I had connected eight times. The report provided by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority claims that I had connected 1258 times. What do the remaining 1250 connections mean? The preliminary security directorate report stated that I had communicated with the application which I had not used. This is a first in the history of informatics. According to a report I had prepared by an independent expert, only 90 connections were compatible. 73 of them lasted for 1-3 seconds, while 17 connections were single second entries.”
Stating that the last report provided by the security directorate asserted that “he had communicated via the application which he had not used”, Şanlı requested the court to take into consideration the report prepared by the independent expert.
Şanlı’s attorney Barış Topuk stated the following: “My client would not have started working at Aksiyon magazine in 1999 had he known that he would be tried over organisational activity 17 years later. At the time, many publicly recognised names such as Ahmet Davutoğlu, Fehmi Koru and Ayşe Böhürler wrote for Aksiyon.”
Attorney Topuk stated that “Ufuk Şanlı had shared outputs against the coup the entire night when the organisation, of which he is accused of being a member, attempted the coup”. Topuk added that it was impossible for Şanlı to be in communication with the organisation.
Attorney Topuk requested the expert who prepared the ByLock report to be heard as a witness at the trial, and in case this request was rejected, a commission of experts to be formed.
Following the defensive statements, the defendants were asked about their final say. Şanlı stated the following:
“I became unemployed at the age of 37, and became a terrorist at the age of 38. I have never ran away from justice. I have faced the truths about myself. I trust in your conscience. I have faith in Turkish justice. I demand my release and acquittal.”
Taking into account “the manner in which the crime was committed and the intensity of criminal intent”, the panel of judges ruled that Şanlı be sentenced to imprisonment of seven years and six months on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”.
The defendants who were being tried in remand were not released following the ruling.
The Appeals Process
The correspondent for the now-closed Zaman newspaper Ufuk Şanlı’s attorneys launched an appeal against the imprisonment sentence 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
Journalist Ufuk Şanlı’s attorneys brought the ruling approved by the court of appeals 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 imprisonment sentence concerning Şanlı was approved by the Chamber.
The Court of Cassation ruled that the procedures concerning Şanlı 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 Şanlı was then finalised. Şanlı had been in prison for three years and seven months when the imprisonment sentence was finalised.
Şanlı is currently serving his sentence as a convict at Istanbul Silivri Prison.
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