Case Monitoring

Journalist Harun Çümen sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison 

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Journalist Harun Çümen, detained for the last 16 months, is convicted of “membership in a terrorist organisation” and sentenced to 7 years 6 months prison

İstanbul – Fourth and final hearing of the trial where since shut down Zaman newspaper’s former Managing Editor Harun Çümen faces “membership in a terrorist organization” and “willingly and knowingly aiding and abetting a terrorist organization” charges was held at İstanbul 32nd High Criminal Court today. The court announced its verdict and sentenced Çümen to 7 years and 6 months in prison. The court also ruled to keep Çümen in prison, who has been tried whilst in detention for the past 16 months. 

Çümen attended the hearing from Balıkesir Prison via SEGBIS video conference system and said, “Not every individual who works for Zaman is a Gulenist, or a member of a terrorist organisation. Working at an establishment to earn a livelihood does not mean adopting or supporting the views of the owners of that establishment.” Çümen added that his payroll account at Bank Asya, his union membership and the work he had been practicing for the past 20 years had been presented as criminal evidence against him during this trial. Çümen reminded the Court of the Court of Cassation’s case law in relation to the criticism of the accusation of membership in a terrorist organisation. 

His lawyer Gökçen Yaşar argued that there was no concrete evidence in relation to the accusations directed towards his client. He requested Çümen’s release, his acquittal and the restitution of the materials seized during his arrest. 

Stating that in the prosecution’s argumentation the defendants were accused of helping members of the Gülenist movement to flee abroad, Yaşar said: “From the arrest until now we have not been asked any questions concerning the accusations mentioned. Questions were asked as though my client himself was going to escape abroad. We made it clear that there was no such situation. The prosecutor must have been convinced by our arguments and replaced the accusation of escaping by that of helping to escape. It is the first time we come across this claim. We reject it.”

Following a short recess for deliberation, the court announced its verdict and sentenced Harun Çümen to 7 years and 6 months in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization” charges. The court ruled to keep Çümen in prison and did not release him until his sentence is upheld. 

What happened?

Harun Çümen has worked at Zaman newspaper since 1996 until it was shut down on July 27th, 2016. Over the course of his career at Zaman, Çümen worked as a financial correspondent, an editor, and the Managing Editor respectively. 

On March 4th, 2016 the government appointed a trustee to Feza News, to which the Zaman newspaper was managed under. The newspaper was completely shut down on July 27th, 2016.

Çümen, who stopped practicing journalism after that, was taken into custody on March 4th, 2018 and was arrested on March 7th 2018. He has been tried whilst in detention before the İstanbul 32nd High Criminal Court, together with 3 other defendants, for allegedly “being a member of a terrorist organisation.”