Indictment nothing but imaginary accusations and aspersions: Release them immediately!

Following the elapse of five months, the indictment against our newspaper’s columnists, cartoonist and managers has been completed. The indictment, from which the signature of the prosecutor charged with having Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organisation (FETO) links is absent, consists almost entirely of news reports and tweets.

Yayınlanma: 05.04.2017 - 14:50
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The indictment has been completed into our newspaper’s foundation chair and columnist Orhan Erinç, Executive Board Chair Akın Atalay, Attorney-at-Law, Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu, former editor-in-chief Can Dündar, Publications Consultant and columnist Kadri Gürsel, Book Supplement Editor Turhan Günay, columnist Aydın Engin, Cumhuriyet Foundation Management Board members and columnists Hikmet Çetinkaya and Hakan Kara, cartoonist Musa Kart, lawyers Bülent Utku and Mustafa Kemal Güngör, readers’ representative and columnist Güray Öz and printing administrator Önder Çelik along with our reporter Ahmet Şık, Financial Affairs Manager Bülent Yener and Accounting Manager Günseli Özaltay. Journalist İlhan Tanır and Ahmet Kemal Aydoğdu, owner of the @jeansbiri Twitter account, have also been included as defendants in the indictment. Istanbul Republic Deputy Chief Prosecutor Mehmet Akif Ekinci and Republic Prosecutor Yasemin Baba signed the indictment, from which the signature of the prosecutor who lead the investigation, Murat İnam, a defendant in the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organisation trial, was absent. The indictment was leaked to the pro-regime media before being seen by our columnists’ and managers’ counsel in a way that makes a mockery of the law. Details of the indictment were first splashed on the pages of Sabah newspaper. The indictment consists almost entirely of news reports and tweets. The public prosecution is calling for our columnists and managers to be punished for the crimes of ‘while not being a member of armed terrorist organisations aiding the organisation’ and ‘employment-related abuse of trust.’

‘Making the organisation appear likeable’

It is asserted in the indictment that, in tandem with changes that took place to the Cumhuriyet Foundation Management Board, Cumhuriyet newspaper’s editorial policy has undergone change over the past three-year period and particularly in the set of events leading to the 15 July bloody coup attempt and its aftermath that is directly counter to its ninety year past and founding philosophy. There are alleged to have been reader complaints over the paper running reports having destructive and divisive manipulative intent, giving space to comments by terrorist organisation leaders and directors that incite violence, making terrorist organisations appear ‘likeable and legitimate’ and associating the State of the Republic of Turkey with international terrorist organisations, and that it had virtually been ‘taken over’ by terrorist organisations. It is stated in the indictment that, ‘It has been determined that Cumhuriyet newspaper has virtually been taken over by the FETO/PDY armed terrorist organisation since 2013, and, in conjunction with the suspect Can Dündar taking charge of the newspaper, it departed from its aims and goals and entered a different orbit. In this period, the newspaper virtually became the defender and guardian of the FETO/PDY, PKK/KCK and DHKP/C terrorist organisations.’

‘It turned Erdoğan into a target’

It is suggested in the indictment, which asserts that the newspaper undertook an active role in the international open and concealed operations that have been staged against Turkey since 2013, that it far exceeded the right afforded by press freedom and universal law to make reports and comments containing severe criticism as it covered up the actions of the FETO/PDY, PKK/KCK and DHKP/C terrorist organisations, and that it embarked on an intense perception management operation, laying the ground for unregistered, illegal politics and turning the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the President of the Republic of Turkey into targets using asymmetrical war techniques.

It is a crime to ask Hurşit Külter

In the indictment, reports that were carried by many other press and broadcasting entities, the interview with Cemil Bayık, reports about Hurşit Külter and the intelligence agency lorries and reports on comments made from the Twitter account named Fuat Avni were described as serving to legitimise the actions of terrorist organisations. The following statements are contained in the indictment, in which it is asserted that the newspaper attempted to thwart the fight against terrorist organisations by describing it as the ‘palace war’: ‘The simultaneous use of the same descriptions of the security forces that were fighting terror has been observed in Cumhuriyet newspaper as well as in the PKK/KCK press organs. It is also known that in Taraf newspaper, which at one time virtually operated as FETO/PDY’s press organ, headlines were inserted creating the impression that, ‘soldiers do not want to fight,’ it was said: ‘The Army is Asking: Why are we dying?’ and praise was given to the PYD in connection with the Kobani events.’

The reports listed as evidence

Reports published in the paper have been cited as crime evidence in the indictment: ‘Either Apo to Qandil or we to İmralı,’ ‘Shocking comment about Hakan Fidan from Qandil,’ ‘The intelligence agency committed a crime,’ ‘We cannot defeat ISIL with Erdoğan,’ ‘That lorry was the intelligence agency’s,’ ‘Here are the weapons that Erdoğan said do not exist,’ ‘Nusaybin demolished,’ ‘Raid on the cellar: tens dead,’ The government’s plan: war after the election,’ ‘Number one was Erdoğan,’ ‘If it had gone to the Grand Chamber, his life would have ended,’ ‘It exploded with cries of “God is great”,’ ‘They have pulled the pin,’ ‘A midnight hand calls a halt,’ ‘Those prosecutors have gone,’ ‘A seven-lorry crisis,’ ‘Fear of collapse,’ ‘Country of slaughter’ and ‘Women attacked Çelik.’ Considerable space is devoted in the indictment to the report with the headline ‘This act is a method which has been forced on us’ involving the activists who killed Republic Prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz, about which a decision to drop the charges was previously issued.

By association from a headline

The article by our columnist Aydın Engin entitled ‘Peace in the world, so at home what?’ published on 13 July 2016 is interpreted as follows: ‘The use of the name by which the members of the FETO/PDY armed terrorist organisation who staged the coup attempt identified themselves of the ‘Peace at Home Council’ by Aydın Engin in his column of 13/07/2016 and this date, according to information obtained from coupists turned informer, being the date on which the coup attempt was made known to the lower ranks is exceptionally significant. Indeed, it is a fact that is reflected in open sources that Adil Öksüz, stated in Ankara Republic Chief Prosecution’s indictment into the Akıncı Base to have been a BYLOCK user and who is the FETO/PYD armed terrorist organisation’s prayer leader in the Air Forces and now on the run, went to America on 11 July 2016 and returned to Turkey on 13 July 2016 with the instruction for the coup.’

Conversations with ByLock users

It is also alleged in the indictment that our managers and columnists made many contacts with suspects who used the cryptographic communication program named BYLOCK into which members of the FETO/PDY armed terrorist organisation had been integrated using a special method. In the prosecutors’ endeavour to portray the contacts that they made by virtue of their journalistic profession as being crime connections, recourse is made to the justification, ‘However normal it may appear for people to establish contact among themselves in view of current social and economic circumstances and the wide-spread nature of means of communications, it is clear that frequent conversations with policemen, soldiers and other public servants who are from different professional groups and social milieus and who are under investigation in connection with the FETO/PDY armed terrorist organisations and are IN DETENTION or ON THE RUN will appear neither to accord with the normal course of affairs nor to be coincidental.’

Particular attention to Fuat Avni

With it noted that FETO/PDY was influential on social media, the comment was made, ‘With ours being a country numbering among the top three globally in terms of social media use, it has been seen that perception management operations of this nature can be communicated to very wide masses. It has been established that particular attention was attached by Cumhuriyet newspaper of which some of the suspects are managers and columnists to the unfounded and false posts made from the account named ‘Fuat Avni’ used by fugitive FETO/PDY armed terrorist organisation suspect Sait Sefa, and the newspaper reported Fuat Avni’s posts in a column set up for this purpose and was instrumental in conveying them to broader masses.’

Press freedom interpretation

The prosecutors, who assert that even the failure to condemn acts of terrorism amounts to concealed support for terrorism, made the following assessment concerning press freedom, summarised: ‘It is an inescapable necessity to concede that, in common with all freedoms, there are also certain limitations on press freedom to enable the state and society to exist and to ensure their continuity, and that unlimited freedoms will give rise to anarchy... Press-broadcasting organs may only avail themselves of the protection afforded to the press provided they operate in a manner befitting their purpose and within the bounds of legitimacy.’

Double jeopardy

The charges brought against Dündar in the trial over the intelligence agency lorries at the Court of Cassation have also been included in this indictment as evidence. It is alleged that the newspaper underwent a radical change of publishing policy after Dündar had been brought in as editor-in-chief and Dündar had, through his reports and interviews about the intelligence service’s lorries, published documents and information that required to be kept secret with state security in mind. It is asserted that Dündar had attempted to portray the Republic of Turkey State in the international arena as being a country that aids terror and, in publishing this news one week before the general elections, he had also betrayed his intention to organise unregistered politics. It is claimed that Dündar, by aligning himself with FETO/PYD’s operations to overthrow the government through his articles entitled ‘However You Enter Politics, That is the Way you Go’ and ‘The Pawns have been Overturned, it is the Kings’ Turn,’ had persistently maintained an attitude that directly targeted President Erdoğan. Ignoring the fact that he is a journalist, the attempt is made to portray as crime evidence the existence of records of communications between Dündar and ‘FETO/PYD Police Academy prayer leader’ Önder Aytaç, ‘FETO/PYD press and broadcasting formation administrator’ Ekrem Dumanlı, fugitive ex-Republic Prosecutor Muammer Akkaş, ex-Istanbul Governor Avni Mutlu and ten Bylock-user suspects.

Akın Atalay’s tweets

The attempt is also being made to portray as crime evidence Akın Atalay’s tweets and comments in defence of press freedom during operations targeting the media. In the indictment, in which Akın Atalay’s position on company management is even made into a matter of debate, witness statements made by ‘journalists’ Rıza Zelyut and Mehmet Faraç, known for their hostility towards Cumhuriyet, have been used as evidence against it. Zelyut’s attempts to rearrange Cumhuriyet externally and decide on its management are even included in the indictment.

Cem Küçük was a witness

Pro-regime columnist Cem Küçük also made statement as a witness as part of the investigation. He railed against Cumhuriyet newspaper and accused it of being ‘FETO’s secret publication.’ Küçük, describing Cumhuriyet’s criticism of the government as a crime, said, ‘Overall, its publications are intended to place the government in a difficult position by saying, “Turkey is aiding ISIL.” Also, pretty hefty articles in support of the PKK began to appear in this newspaper. Its publishing policy began to be to place the Republic of Turkey government in a difficult position.’ The prosecution also called on Hüseyin Gülerce and Latif Erdoğan, two figures who were once in Gülen’s closest circle, as witnesses in the Cumhuriyet case.

Others’ interpretations

Also included as evidence in the indictment are lies concocted by the many pro-regime scribes who have participated in the campaign to denigrate Cumhuriyet. The prosecutors, having created a section under the heading ‘News Reports and Articles that are Deemed to be Crime Reports and Evidence Included in the National Press and on Internet News Sites,’ have included in the file accusations made by Tamer Korkmaz and Talat Atilla on the programme named Behind the Curtain on Kanal A. The report carried under the headline ‘How was Cumhuriyet Newspaper Taken Over?’ dated 23 September 2016 on the website named Turktime on 23/09/2016 and Sözcü newspaper’s columnist Oray Eğin’s article entitled, ‘Love Loves Coincidences’ dated 22 November 2015 have not evaded the prosecutors’ ‘attention’, either.

Not enough that the charges were dropped

Also put forward as evidence in the indictment are Ahmet Şık’s interview with Cemil Bayık and the meeting he had with members of the DHKP/C armed terrorist organisation who murdered Republic Prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz. However, the prosecution that was launched into the report about Prosecutor Kiraz ended with the charges being dropped. As to the Bayık interview, the investigation has yet to be opened.

The number of years sought for each person

Prison terms of from seven and a half to fifteen years consecutively for the offence of ‘while not being a member of armed terrorist organisations aiding the organisation’ are sought for Can Dündar, Mehmet Murat Sabuncu, Kadri Gürsel, Aydın Engin, Bülent Yener and Günseli Özaltay. Custodial sentences of from eleven and a half to forty-three years consecutively for the offences of ‘while not being a member of armed terrorist organisations aiding the organisation’ and ‘employment-related abuse of trust’ are sought for Akın Atalay, Mehmet Orhan Erinç and Önder Çelik. Punishments of from nine and a half to twenty-nine years consecutively in jail for the offences of ‘while not being a member of armed terrorist organisations aiding the organisation’ and ‘employment-related abuse of trust’ are sought for Bülent Utku, Musa Kart, Hakan Karasinir, Mustafa Kemal Güngör and Hikmet Aslan Çetinkaya. For Ahmet Şık, on the other hand, a prison term of from seven and a half to fifteen years for the offence of ‘while not being a member of the PKK and DHKP/C armed terrorist organisations aiding the organisation’ is sought for him.

Examination continues

It is said in the indictment, with it stated that examination of digital evidence has yet to be completed, ‘Steps were taken for the indictment to be drawn up to prevent the case from dragging out given that it involves pre-trial detention, and the said reports will be appended to the file on their being sent to this Republic Chief Prosecution.’

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