Court releases daily Sözcü reporter Gökmen Ulu
Critical daily newspaper Sözcü’s jailed reporter Bekir Gökmen Ulu was released by the court with a ban on leaving the country on Nov. 8.
During the second hearing at Istanbul’s 37th High Criminal Court on the same day, Ulu, who was in jail during the trial, and the defendants who are being tried without arrest, news editors Melda Olgun and Yonca Kaleli, appeared before the judge.
Sözcü’s proprietor Burak Akbay, who is currently believed to be out of the country, faces up to 30 years in jail for “managing an armed terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.”
The court announced its interlocutory decision, ordering the release of the İzmir-based reporter.
Meanwhile, pro-government journalists have slammed the indictment of journalists and staff-members from the newspaper, speaking at the second hearing in the ongoing court case in which Sözcü personnel must fight terror charges.
ATV Europe presenter Fuat Uğur, daily Star journalist Ersoy Dede and writer Cem Küçük, all prominent figures in media outlets close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), said there is insufficient evidence to link Sözcü and the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), widely believed to have been behind the July 2016 coup attempt.
During the second hearing of the case, journalist Fuat Uğur said that while he sometimes argued with Sözcü, there was no way he could say: “FETÖ is behind the publications of daily Sözcü.”
Uğur, who testified as a witness alongside Dede and Küçük, said Ulu should not be in prison due to his report on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s holiday destinations prior to the attempted takeover.
“Frankly I don’t see any evidence in the indictment. I think that the indictment is weak and this case should be closed. I don’t know anything about Sözcü’s links to FETÖ. This case should be closed before more damage is done to the concept of the rule of law [in this country],” Uğur told the court.
Dede also blasted the indictment, saying Sözcü’s alleged links to FETÖ, which include claims that the newspaper received money from the group, are “utter nonsense,” adding that Ulu’s report on Erdoğan’s holiday is within the boundaries of journalistic activities.
“It’s shameful to be a witness regarding Gökmen’s report, which constitutes a legitimate journalistic enterprise,” Dede said.
Küçük, meanwhile, described the allegations in the indictment as “extremely funny.”
You can’t say ‘Sözcü cooperated with FETÖ’ based on this indictment,” he said.