An Istanbul Court has adjourned the trial where a group of nine people, including Sözcü Newspaper’s journalists, administrative personnel, columnists and owner, stand accused of various terror-related crimes to December.
In the trial which was launched after the coup attempt of 2016 with regards to a news report about Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s vacation in July that year, Sözcü correspondent Gökmen Ulu, the newspaper’s former Managing Editor for internet website Mediha Olgun, Financial Affairs Director Yonca Yücekaleli are accused of “committing a crime on behalf of a terrorist organization while not being a member.” Sözcü’s owner Burak Akbay, who is abroad with an arrest warrant out for him, is accused of “leading a terrorist organizaiton” and “propaganda for an armed terrorist organization.” A later trial into Sözcü columnists and editors Metin Yılmaz, Mustafa Çetin, Necati Doğru, Yücel Arı and Emin Çölaşan was earlier merged with this trial, bringing the total number of defendants in the case to nine.
Among those who were present in the courtroom were Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu, journalist Uğur Dündar. Presiding Judge Akın Gürlek announced that the court session had to start later than scheduled due to a technical error. The case was heard by the Istanbul 37th High Criminal Court.
“New legislation should be taken into account while issuing verdict”
A lawyer representing Burak Akbay asked the court to consider recent legislative changes that were published in the Official Gazette last week, that were adopted as part of a judicial reform package, which the government claims will improve freedom of expression. Asking for the arrest warrant for Akbay to be lifted, the lawyer demanded additional time for preparing a defense.Another lawyer for Akbay demanded the acquittal of his client based on the recently adopted legislation.
Reference to Cumhuriyet journalists’ trial
A lawyer for Sözcü Columnist Emin Çölaşan recalled that recently the 16th Chamber of Supreme Court of Appeals ruled against convictions of several journalists who were tried for their reporting in the Cumhuriyet daily. “In the case of the court not agreeing with an acquital, we demand that the case be dropped by applying the Press Law.”
Sözcü newspaper’s lawyer Celal Ülgen noted that his client Akbay had been unable to attend his father’s funeral due to the arrest warrant issued by the court, reiterating the earlier demand for the removal of the warrant to enable Akbay to visit his father’s graves.
The court ruled to ask the prosecution if there had been any changes to the prosecutor’s final opinion submission following the adoption of the judicial reform package legislation and adjourned the case until 27 December 10:00 am.
The court also ruled to keep the arrest warrant for Akbay in place and the continuation of the procedures necessary for the issuance of an international red notice for his capture.