Daily Sözcü journalists plead not guilty in first hearing on terror charges

Daily Sözcü journalists plead not guilty in first hearing on terror charges

Daily Sözcü journalists plead not guilty in first hearing on terror charges

Journalists and staff from Turkish daily Sözcü pleaded not guilty on Nov. 7 at the first hearing in which they are being tried on terror charges, Doğan News Agency has reported.

During the hearing at Istanbul’s 37th High Criminal Court reporter Gökmen Ulu, who is in jail during the trial, and defendants who are being tried without arrest, news editors Melda Olgun and Yonca Kaleli, appeared before the judge.

They are accused of “managing an armed terror organization,” “engaging in armed terror organization propaganda” and “willingly abetting an armed terror organization without being included in its hierarchical structure.”

In his defense, Ulu said he “did not compromise on universal journalistic principles” in his reporting and described accusations that he is a member of the Gülen network as “gross slander.”

“It would be better if they tried me on charges of carrying out oppositional journalism,” he added.

Commenting on his story reporting the location where President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was holidaying ahead of the July 2016 coup attempt, Ulu said everyone in the Mediterranean resort of Marmaris was aware of the fact that Erdoğan was vacationing there at the time.

“Presidential officials also knew that I was there. It was a news report about a vacation. The fact that the president was there can be monitored from the security cameras of the hotel,” Ulu said.

He also noted that it was he who first broke the news of Erdoğan’s call for citizens to take to the streets against the coup in his brief to reporters at around 12 a.m. on July 16, 2016.

Quoting a report prepared by parliament’s coup investigation committee and an indictment in one of the coup attempt trials, Ulu said it had been proven that pro-coup soldiers did not learn about Erdoğan’s location from journalists.

Separately, Sözcü’s proprietor Burak Akbay, whose wherabouts are not currently known, sent a four-page written defense to the court, in which he described the accusations “as part of a plot.”

“I have been targeted because I established a newspaper in line with the principles of Atatürk. Turkey’s justice system has also become a tool in a plot and the accusations directed against me are part of this plot,” Akbay stated.

“The principles of all newspapers I have founded in my professional life are in line with the rule of law. As a person who has criticized FETÖ both in my private life and as a professional at Sözcü, I believe that this plot is part of an attempt to conceal the real Gülenists,” he said.

Olgun, meanwhile, said in her defense that she could not understand how she is accused of aiding FETÖ, as a person who was one of the complainants in the Mavi Marmara case on the deadly 2011 Israeli raid on a Turkish flotilla bound for Gaza.

Olgun also noted that she did not contribute to the report on the location of Erdoğan in Marmaris on the night of the coup attempt and she did not have the authority to publish the report on the daily’s website.

For her party, Yücekaleli said she is only working in Sözcü’s accounting department and there is no proof that she ever aided FETÖ.

The indicment seeks jail terms of between 16.5 and 30 years for Akbay, between 7.5 and 15 years for Ulu, and prison terms for Olgun and Yücekaleli on terror-related charges.