The prosecutor spoke and the judge sealed the deal and made this declaration: “the homes of the administrators and writers at Cumhuriyet would be searched and they would be taken into custody.”
On the morning of October 31, 2016, the prosecutor followed the orders and the judge implemented the decision. The prosecutor spoke...he said: “Arrest Cumhuriyet writers and administrators.” The judge pressed the seal and they were arrested.
156 days passed and the prosecutor finally spoke once more and explained the official charges. The court accepted these charges and provided a date for the next hearing 3 months later on July 24, 2017. The prosecutor nor the judge were not yet satisfied with arresting and impressing the seal, respectively. Currently, 13 of our friends are in prison in Silivri. They are completely isolated (some in groups of 3 some alone) in Silivri. The prosecutor spoke, the witnesses for the prosecution spoke and the AKP media spoke during this attack to completely besiege the 93 year old Cumhuriyet newspaper.
There have been no results from our efforts with the Supreme Court. The prosecutor spoke one more time, the witnesses spoke one more time, and the AKP media spoke one more time….The Supreme Court remained silent. The files including the criminal charges finally reached us after many months...Now, it is time for Cumhuriyet to speak….
From this day forward, we are starting the “ file on silencing Cumhuriyet.” The aim of this article series is to provide the response that our accusers deserve. We uncover the baseless accusations, lies, defamatory remarks that the disgraceful media hitmen have been circulating against our journalists and administrators, including groundless accusations of ByLock use by our staff and fiscal offences against the Cumhuriyet Foundation.
In short: We will accuse those who accuse us. We will uncover their crimes. We will continue to do our work without taking a break or slowing down. Our job is to be journalists….
How the plot started
As a part of the investigation targeting the editorial policies of our news paper, our Managing Editor Murat Sabuncu; our writers Aydın Engin, Hikmet Çetinkaya and Hakan Kara; manager of our Book Supplement Turhan Günay; our Reader Representative Güray Öz; our Lawyer Bülent Utku; our Chief Accountant Günsel Özaltay and a former staff member Bülent Yener, were taken into custody at their homes. Our Cartoonist Musa Kart, our writer Kadri Gürsel, our lawyer Mustafa Kemal Güngör and manager Önder Çelik turned themselves in after learning the decisions to take them into custody.
After five days in custody, Murat Sabuncu, Turhan Günay, Bülent Utku, Güray Öz, Hakan Kara, Musa Kart, Kadri Gürsel, Mustafa Kemal Güngör ve Önder Çelik were arrested by İstanbul 9th Court Judge Mustafa Çakar who cited the news and editorials published in the Newspaper and gave the rationale that there was a suspicion that they may become fugitives if released. On November 12, 2016, the same judge using the same rationale arrested our Head of the Executive Committee Akın Atalay, who returned to Turkey after an arrest warrant was issued for him.
Judge Çakar used as rationale the published news and editorials some of which were previously cleared. During the custody period, it became known that the prosecutor who started the investigation, Murat İnam, himself was the defendant in a lawsuit against FETÖ and was punishable by imprisonment for life plus 67 years and 3 months of incarceration. Prosecutor Murat Inam was also reported to the High Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) but still leads the investigation of Cumhuriyet.
He new but didn’t run
Following these arrests, our reporter Ahmet Şık was taken into custody using his news stories and Twitter communications as the rationale. During his interrogation, the prosecutor who started the investigation, Fahrettin Kemal Yerli, asked Ahmet Şık about the false news about himself reported by the Sabah reporter Nazif Karaman.
The prosecutor, Fahrettin Kemal Yerli, who started the investigation, asked Şık about the fake news piece written by Nazif Karaman, the correspondent from Sabah newspaper, about him. Atila Öztürk, the judge from the Istanbul 8th court, arrested him stating that Şık was involved in issuing propaganda for FETO/PDY and PKK/KCK; however, Şık was imprisoned for one year for the OdaTV trial, which was ultimately accepted by the government to be a hoax planned and implemented by the Gulen movement. Şık had stated before his arrest: “they will arrest me”; however, he did not run away nor hide. Still, the judge ruled that he presented a flight risk.
The prosecutor’s office did not prepare the indictment for 156 days after the arrest. Therefore, the judicial offices, which examined the arrest of our 11 colleagues monthly, either copied the arrest verdict or cited some abstract rules of law like “flight risk, not having enough evidence”. When these decisions were contested, the responses were the copies of the above statements.
At the conclusion of the investigation started by prosecutor Inam, the indictment was at last completed on April 4th 2017. Since Inam’s position was changed by an order from the lead prosecutor Irfan Fidan, the signatures under the indictment were of Mehmet Akif Ekinci, the assistant to the lead prosecutor in the Media Crimes Investigation Office, and prosecutor Yasemin Baba. Almost all of the indictment document, which took 5 months to prepare, consisted of news pieces and excerpts from twitter. During the investigation, the gathered information was not shared with the attorneys but with the proponent institutions; in the same way, the indictment was first shared with the Sabah newspaper. After several news and commentaries on the indictment document were published, the prosecutors sent an indictment document, on which they made changes and corrections, to Istanbul 27th District Court.
The indictment was asking for the punishment of Cumhuriyet writers and administrators due to “them using the trust given to them by their profession towards harmful ends; helping terrorist organizations although they are not members of these armed organizations”. It was also stated that the politics of the publication has changed in the opposite direction of its 90-year history and the philosophy of its foundation in the last three years, and especially after the coup attempt on July 15, 2016. In the indictment it was also claimed that the newspaper wrote news items directed at divisive and disruptive manipulations; published the statements of the leaders and administrators of the terrorist organizations, which were calling for violence; tried to show the terrorist organizations in a “nice and legitimate” light; built a connection between the Turkish government and the international terrorist organizations; and also that there were complaints from their readers that the newspaper was almost overtaken by terrorist organizations.
The indictment document also claimed that our writers and the administrators had liaisons with a lot of suspects who used the ByLock program. The prosecutors tried to imply that the liaisons built as a requirement for journalism are related to crimes, as well as that the meetings were not done according to the ordinary flow of life. Ahmet Şık who was initially arrested on the grounds of doing FETO and PKK propaganda was indicted by crimes related to DHKP-C and PKK. Thus, it became apparent that even the prosecutors did not believe the claim of crimes related to propaganda for FETO.
Arrest due to Tweet about Accident
Our newspaper’s website had broken the news of Chief Prosecutor Mustafa Alper’s death in a traffic accident with the tweet “Author of the first FETO prosecution memorandum Chief Prosecutor Mustafa Alper mowed down by truck.” The tweet, which was deleted and corrected 55 seconds later, was heavily targeted by Sabah newspaper and ATV.
Following this targeting, Yasemin Baba, a prosecutor at the Publishing Crimes Investigation Bureau who is also leading the investigation into 12 Cumhuriyet employees currently under arrest, started an investigation on cumhuriyet.com.tr Editor in Chief Oğuz Güven.
After that, Celal Sarıdere, another prosecutor from the same bureau who prosecutor Baba turned over the case to, filed for the arrest of Güven after being held in police custody for four days. Güven was interrogated on May 15th by Prosecutor Sarıdere, who arrested him on charges of illegal organization propaganda.
Güven, who said that the post was made due to the competition and speed necessary for social media reporting and that it was corrected after 55 seconds, was arrested by the decision of Istanbul Second Peace Court Criminal Judge Akın Gürelek. Gürelek claimed in his decision that “The tweet in question demonstrates that this is the end that prosecutors working on the FETO case will meet.”
With Oğuz Güven’s arrest, the number of Cumhuriyet employees in prison rose to 13.
Arrested with House Raid on his Way to Inform the Prosecutor
Arrest warrants against our newspaper continued after the bill of indictment was completed. Our transportation staff Yavuz Yakisan and our accountant staff Emre Iper were taken under under custody upon public prosecutor Yasemin Baba’s orders on April 5 and April 6. Prosecutor Baba issued an arrest warrant against Iper alleging that he is a ByLock user, although he was under custody based on another court case from 2016.
Iper reports on allegations of his ByLock application, “I saw my initials together with my mobile phone number in the bill of indictment against Cumhuriyet newspaper. Then, I consulted my lawyer and friend Tora Pekin about this. An image of my mobile phone device was captured to be used the next day as I was getting ready to inform the prosecutor about the situation. That night I was arrested on a house raid before I could visit the prosecutor the next day”. Iper’s arrest is based on suspicion of escape.
Arrest warrant was based on three-lines long technical brief by the Smuggling and Organized Crime Department. Prosecutors of the case have not investigated Iper’s mobile phone device up until today despite Iper’s persistent requests.
Our newspapers’ lawyers received expertise report from an expert under oath to confirm and prove that ByLock application was never downloaded or used in Iper’s mobile phone. Although the expertise report underline the fact that there is no evidence for Iper’s use of ByLock application on his phone, appeals against Iper’s arrest are denied by the court without any justifications for the decision.
Like a joke….
Not looking at the telephone for 14 days
Our driver, Yakiskan, was in custody for 14 days. After 14 days, while giving his statement at the police station, Yakiskan, his son, and wife were accused of having 777 phone conversations with “M.Y.”, the former legal counselor of Ministry of Internal Affairs who had been arrested in relation to the FETO investigation.
Since M.Y. was contacted by Yakiskan’s family so many times, our lawyers suspected that this person could be an acquaintance and asked Yakiskan’s son about the phone number allegedly belonging to M.Y. The phone number was listed as one of Yakiskan’s son’s friends on his phone’s contacts.
The truth behind this situation which was never investigated by the police was as follows: The phone number indeed belonged to his son’s friend, but not in the way that the accusation was made. This number actually belonged to a show owner in Istanbul who happened to have the same initials as M.Y., but is a completely different person.
The police never compared these 2 phone numbers and kept Yakiskan in custody for 14 days Once the truth was out and relayed to the prosecutor, Yakiskan was set free. However, he was banned from leaving the country.
Translated by “Solidarity of Freedom of Ahmet”