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Major Sözcü newspaper trial adjourned until March  


Canan Coşkun, İstanbul – Prominent employees of Sözcü newspaper were accused of “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization” in court today. The case of reporter Gökmen Ulu, former website manager Mediha Olgun, fiscal manager Yonca Yücekaleli and owner Burak Akbay was heard in İstanbul 37th High Criminal Court.

The terrorism charges were prompted by a Sözcü article concerning the location of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during the July 15 coup attempt, various news stories covering the December 17-25 incidents and a story titled ‘Your 2016 Fortune’. Ulu has already spent six months in detention. Each of the defendants face sentences of up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

None of the defendants were present at the hearing, although ten assorted lawyers and journalists were present to monitor the court proceedings. A warrant for the arrest of Buruk Akbay has been issued. Celal Ülgen, one of Akbay’s lawyers, requested that the warrant be lifted. İsmail Yılmaz, another member of Akbay’s legal team, requested that digital materials relating to Akbay be returned. Akbay’s legal team argued that there is no evidence indicating a link between their client and the Gulenist movement which the Turkish government believes was the instigator of the July 15 coup attempt.

Can Çelik, Mediha Olgun’s lawyer, then rose and requested the lifting of the travel ban over her client.

Can Tümer Keriş, the prosecutor in the case, subsequently took the floor and requested that the court reject the requests of the defense on all counts. The panel of judges sided with the prosecution and overruled the defense. The judges also chose to write to the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in order to ask about the case file of Emin Çölaşan, another writer for Sözcü. Çölaşan’s file will be provided to the prosecution to support the preparation of their final opinion, and the hearing will be adjourned until March 12 2019.

Updated: November 27 2018