An Istanbul court on Oct. 31 ruled that five daily Cumhuriyet journalists will continue to remain in prison pending trial on terror-related charges.
During the hearing at the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court, a total of 20 suspects, five of whom are currently in jail, were on trial to face terror charges against them.
Two of the journalists, including the daily’s former editor-in-chief Can Dündar, are in exile.
The court ruled that five defendants, including Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu, journalist Ahmet Şık and CEO Akın Atalay, will remain in prison.
They are charged with supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) and the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP/C).
Prison sentences requested by the state prosecutor ranged from seven-and-a-half years to 43 years.
The court began its first hearing in the case on July 24. The next hearing is expected to take place in late December.
The court also ordered an interview published on a news website with former Cumhuriyet columnist Doğan Satmış to be included in the case as evidence.
Digital forensic engineer Tuncay Beşikçi was also heard by the court as a witness to testify about the ByLock application, which was found in the cellphone of defendant Yunus Emre Kiper.
Beşikçi said the phone had been directed to the ByLock server through a music application.
Meanwhile, the WhatsApp conversations between former Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dündar and businessman Osman Kavala, who was recently detained by police in Istanbul, were also included in the case file.
Separately, an Istanbul court on Oct. 31 ordered the release of the last two arrested defendants in the case into now-closed daily Özgür Gündem, in which they being are tried on terror charges.
The hearing at the Istanbul 23th high criminal court saw the participation of defendants Eren Keskin and Ayşe Necmiye Alpay, who had previously been released along with novelist Aslı Erdoğan in December 2016.
The daily’s license holder Kemal Sancılı and its acting news editor İnan Kızılkaya were released during the hearing in which they are being tried along with seven others on charges of “targeting the unity of the state” and “being a member of a terror organization.”
Lawyers had demanded the release of Sancılı and Kızılkaya and the removal of probation measures for them.
In his defense, Kızılkaya stated that what really matters for people is to “feel freedom” rather than “feel the power of the state.”
“I am a journalist and I demand my freedom … after 441 days deprived of my freedom,” Kızılkaya said.
The prosecutor in the case had demanded the continuation of arrest for Kızılkaya and Sancılı but the court ordered their release. However, the court also imposed a travel ban on them.
The indictment prepared by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office seeks aggravated life imprisonment for nine defendants in the case, as well as prison terms of between six and 17 years on charges of “being a member of an armed terror organization,” “targeting the unity of the state” and “engaging in terror propaganda.”
It says the closed-daily had engaged in terror propaganda by publishing the opinions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).