Prosecutor demands up to 10 years in prison for Sözcü executives and staff

18 April 2019

İstanbul - Seventh hearing of the trial where executives and staff of Sözcü Daily face terror-related charges was held at İstanbul 37th High Criminal Court today. Although the lawyers protested that the case file was incomplete, the prosecutor still presented a final opinion and demanded up to 10 years in prison for all defendants except Sözcü owner Burak Akbay. The court also decided to begin the process of issuing a red notice for Akbay. The next hearing will take place on 14 June.

Defendants Mediha Olgun, Necati Doğru, Yücel Arı, Bekir Gökmen Ulu, Yonca Yücekaleli, Mustafa Çetin and Metin Yılmaz were present in the courtroom for the hearing. Emin Çölaşan attended the hearing via tele-conferencing system SEGBİS from a court in Ankara. Burak Akbay, who is abroad, did not attend the hearing.

The presiding judge read the documents that entered the file between hearings out loud, revealing that the prosecutor’s final opinion had been presented to the court only one day prior to the hearing, on April 17.

Defendants and their lawyers noted that they were not notified about this and have not received a copy of the document.

Lawyer İsmail Yılmaz demanded the court to revoke its interim decision from the previous hearing, which ruled for the prosecutor to file the final opinion. Yılmaz argued that the case file is incomplete, further noting that not all witnesses have been heard and necessary expert reports have not been received.

Lawyer Ceren Yakışır noted that the recently received financial report has not been examined by a qualified and competent person; hence, the prosecutor presenting the final opinion is highly irregular.

In his final opinion as to the accusations, which has been leaked to Sabah newspaper even before the defendants could see it, the prosecutor demanded all defendants except Burak Akbay to be punished for “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization without being a member” for up to 10 years in prison. The prosecutor also demanded defendant Media Olgun to benefit from effective repentance law.

In its interim decision, the court rejected the defense’s request to annul this premature opinion and decided to begin the process of issuing a red notice for Burak Akbay.

Defense lawyer Celal Ülgen protested this decision. Reminding that the prosecutor’s opinion was leaked to Sabah even before they could see it, Ülgen reacted: “Who are you? You’re not journalists, you’re a court of the state! We’ve seen this in many FETÖ cases. Investigate this!”

Presiding Judge Gürlek replied, “The opinion was uploaded to National Judiciary Informatics System (UYAP) yesterday. Who gave it to Sabah, we cannot know.”

The next hearing will take place on 14 June.