The first hearing in the trial of Zaman Daily, in which 31 media employees are standing trial was held yesterday (September 18). The persons include closed Zaman daily’s former writers and employees Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç, Mümtazer Türköne, Ahmet T. Alkan, Nuriye Akman and Mustafa Ünal.
22 of the 31 media employees are in detention on remand and the defendants are being charged with “coup attempt” and “being a member of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Organization (FETÖ/PDY)”.
One of the arrested defendants in the trial, Ali Bulaç, a former writer of Zaman daily which was closed through the Statutory Decree No. 668 issued under the State of Emergency, said:
“Which crime I am committing with which article of mine? I am exercising my freedom of expression. Intriguer, disorder and warmongering are my red-line.”
Some highlights from the statements of Bulaç and Alpay are as follows:
ALI BULAÇ: Prosecutor would demand three death penalties if it had not been abolished
“I am facing three aggravated life imprisonments and 15 years in prison. If capital punishment had not been abolished, they would demand death penalty for me due to six articles of mine. This is the punishment demanded also for the person who killed 249 people on July 15 [coup attempt]. This demand of the prosecutor’s office will go down in history.”
“For 14 months, I have been sitting behind bars in the prison ward of murderers released on probation, with guardians at my grandchild’s age, under inhumane conditions where even eye contact is prohibited.”
“Defence is sacred. There is no justice without defence. I will make my statement of defence. But I can meet with my attorney only for 10 minutes which are being recorded, and I can reach the documents my attorney sends me only after two days. Can this be considered a fair defence?”
“Many theses have been written about me. The common opinion of these writers regarding me is that I am an islamist who embraces libertarian, pluralist and individualist Muslimism.”
“I am a writer. The prosecutor referred to six articles of mine, but did not say which crime they constituted. My whole life, I obeyed the law whether I like it or not. I did not violate any law”.
“I thought that this organization was a charity foundation like our former President Gül did”
“It was not considered a Fethullahist Terror Organization back in 2012-2013. Even though PDY (Parallel State Organization) was referred to as an organization carrying out illegal activities, they would not say what it was exactly. The organization used to be called the [Gülen] Community/Service was determined to be an armed terrorist organization on July 15. Erdoğan said the last word on July 16 stating “it has been revealed that this is an armed terrorist organization” to this construct which used to be called the Parallel State Organization until July 15.
“And I do accept that this organization constitutes a terrorist organization in terms of its elements on July 15. But even back then, I was not a member of this organization, when it used to be called the Community. Actions which do not constitute a crime cannot be considered an act of the organization unless a direct link to the organization is found.
“Writing a column, a newspaper article cannot be considered a membership affiliation with a terrorist organization. When have I ever participated in an armed protest, whom have I threatened, whom did I target? Did I attend a bomb-demonstration, did I use any fake ID? Which armed terrorist organization on the earth has a union and a foundation operating with the permission by the state? Can there ever be a terrorist organization center in the middle of İstanbul? Does anyone help a terrorist organization knowingly?
“How can a person in my position know about this organization while even high-ranking authorities of the state did not? Am I a soothsayer? I also thought that this organization was a charity foundation like our former President Abdullah Gül did.
“Which crime am I committing with which article?”
“It did not cross my mind that the Community would attempt a coup but I also did not foresee that the authorities responsible for the security of the state would be so blindsided”.
“My greatest wish is release of the journalists”
“I would like to ask the prosecutor: A newspaper must be approved/examined by 15 people before getting published. The article is sent to the Press Prosecutor. The employees are registered with the social security institution. The Prime Ministry provides the accreditation and then the newspapers are being prepared. The President takes one with him to the plane. The ads of the newspaper are placed on the billboards. Its employees retire and receive retirement payments… Well how can these newspapers be the publications of an armed terrorist organization? If so, why didn’t you close them? Did you set up a trap for us, employees?
“If I am a member of the organization, why did they not warn me before July 15 that ‘dangerous things would happen’?
“What is my crime?
“If it is constitutional crime: I did not use any weapons. If it is giving rise to a perception: There is no such crime at the Turkish Criminal Code. Did I participate in the coup attempt? Did I open fire on innocent people? Did I launder money on behalf of the organization? Did I smurf money? Did I steal exam questions?
“I did not become a member of an illegal organization. It is not possible that I was accepted as a member by FETÖ anyway. It is against the structure of the organization and natural flow of life that FETÖ makes me a member. Believing in myself and justice, I did not flee abroad”.
ŞAHIN ALPAY: If there is anyone violating the law, they should get the punishment they deserv
“I got to know both the AKP (Justice and Development Party) and the Gülen Movement with their faces presented to the public. My knowledge regarding the Gülen Movement is based on media outlets, my visits to the schools of the organization in the country and abroad as well as some of the meetings of Abant Platform I attended. This is what I used to think and write about the claims regarding the non-transparent face of Gülen Movement which was not presented to the public: “If there are people in this organization who, as claimed, violate the law, take orders from people other than their superiors, get involved in illegal actions, they should definitely be prosecuted, be brought to a fair trial and get the punishment they deserve. But accusing the Gülen Movement in gross, as a collective, and making them the scapegoat for every evil in the society, is both against logic and the law, I think”.
“My disappointment with the AK Party has started with 2011 elections”
“My disappointment with the AK Party has started with 2011 elections. Giving up the democratic policies it pursued, the AK Party government has increasingly leaned towards an authoritarian and an arbitrary ‘strongman’ regime.
“It has drifted away from the EU criteria and ‘zero problems with the neighbors’ policy, and I’ve started to write critical pieces against the AK Party government. However, I’ve held Prime Minister Erdoğan and his close circle accountable of the wrongdoings, not the whole party. I called for the party to return to its previous policies”.
“My disappointment with the Gülen movement began with July 15”
“My disappointment with the Gülen movement began with the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. Let me admit that I wasn’t aware until that day that the movement had a dark face. The indications that some Gülen movement members were being involved in the coup attempt in this or that way have shocked me as a liberal democrat person who has written and spoken against coups and military tutelage”.
“If Gülen movement members taking part in a coup plot had occurred to me, I would have never written at the Zaman daily.
“I condemn the July 15 coup attempt; thus I regret for writing at the Zaman. I erred very badly for not being able to see the dark face of this movement”.
“I have never become a member of a religious organization”
“I would first like to state that I have nothing to do with the charges pressed against me. I have never become a member of a religious community or group.
“Likewise, I have never become a member of an illegal terror organization by my democratic and peaceful opinions.
“The organizations of which I am a member are as follows: I am a member of the Political Sciences Association of Turkey, Journalists’ Association of Turkey and Press Council. I am a founding member of the Social and Economic Studies of Turkey. I am a member of board of trustees of the Economic and Social Studies Foundation of Turkey. In addition to domestic and foreign public, I am sure state’s intelligence organizations know very well that I am a liberal political scientist who favors liberties.
“The indictment addresses seven of my articles dated between December 19, 2013-March 29, 2014, published on the Zaman, as the evidence of the crimes attributed to me. No investigation has been launched into these articles that I wrote 3-4 years ago.
“In my opinion, the articles the indictment has addressed are not the proof of the crimes I allegedly committed, but on the contrary – they prove my innocence”.
“My detention has turned into punishment”
“I have always lived up to the constitutional order, democracy and the state of law that is an inseparable part of it in all my speeches and articles. My criticisms against the AK Party government have never crossed the lines of the freedom of expression that are drawn by human rights treaties and constitution.
“On the contrary, they were penned with the belief that freedom of expression is assured in Turkey. No prosecution has been carried out into any of my articles or speech. I have been in custody for 14 months. My detention has turned into punishment. The European Court of Human Rights immediately accepted my application concerning my unlawful detention and posed questions to the Ministry of Justice to be responded until October 4, 2017. I didn’t commit any of the crimes that were attributed to me in the indictment”.
“I exercised my freedom of expression”
“I am innocent. I just exercised my freedom of expression secured by the Constitution and the European Court of Human Rights. I believe that I will be cleared of blame and I demand the acquittal. I wish that you rule trial without arrest. I have no other expectation in life than spending the rest of my time with my family.
“Four of the eight writers who are standing trial with me are pending trial without arrest. We know that the suspects aged above 70 are pending trial without arrest in similar cases. I hope you will grant me this rights as well”.
Who is standing trial:
* Ahmet Metin Sekizkardeş, Ahmet Turan Alkan, Alaattin Güner, Ali Bulaç, Cuma Kaya, Faruk Akkan, Hakan Taşdelen, Hüseyin Belli, Hüseyin Turan, İbrahim Karayeğen, İsmail Küçük, Mehmet Özdemir, Murat Avcıoğlu, Mustafa Ünal, Mümtazer Türköne, Onur Kutlu, Sedat Yetişkin, Şahin Alpay, Şeref Yılmaz, Yüksel Durgut, Zafer Özsoy, Adil Gülçek are in detention on remand standing trial.
* Ahmet İrem, Ali Hüseyinçelebi, Süleyman Sargın, Osman Nuri Arslan, Osman Nuri Öztürk, Lale Kemal (Lalezar Sarıibrahimoğlu), Nuriye Ural, Orhan Kemal Cengiz are standing trial without arrest.
There is an order to take İhsan Duran Dağı forcibly to testify.
The defendants are being charged with “attempting to annihilate the constitutional order”, “attempting to overthrow the Grand National Assembly of the Republic of Turkey or to deter it from carrying out its duties”, “attempting to overthrow the Government of the Republic of Turkey or to deter it from carrying out its duties”, “being a member of an armed terrorist organization”.
In accordance with the above mentioned charges, the defendants face three aggravated life imprisonments and 15 years in prison each.
Following the coup attempt on July 15, 2016, operations have begun to be launched on media organizations known to be affiliated with the Gülen Community and tens of journalists and media employees were taken into custody.
Osman Nuri Öztürk, Süleyman Sargın, Şeref Yılmaz, Ahmet Metin Sekizkardeş, Alaattin Güner, Faruk Akkan, Mümtazer Türköne, Şahin Alpay, Ahmet Turan Alkan, Lale Kemal, Ali Bulaç, Sedat Yetişkin, Murat Avcıoğlu, Yüksel Durgut, Zafer Özsoy, Cuma Kaya, Hakan Taşdelen, Osman Nuri Arslan and Nuriye Ural were taken into custody during the first wave of detentions on September 27, 2016.
The article is a contribution by Bianet (Istanbul), a SEENPM member organization.