Can journalist Şahin Alpay be a coup plotter?

Can journalist Şahin Alpay be a coup plotter?

Reading the accusations in the indictment, listening to the defense of the suspect and evaluating all the evidence is fundamental when trying to express an objective opinion about a legal case that is continuing.

But if you know the suspect in the case, personal information about him or her, your instincts and your inner voice will all take you—independent from physical evidence—to a certain point in advance.

So, I was never convinced regarding the claims accusing journalist Şahin Alpay as a coup plotter.

When I examined the accusations, leaving my instincts aside, the first oddity I came across was the contradiction in the framework of the accusations, which were directed against Şahin as well as other colleagues I knew, like Nuriye Ural and Lale Sarıibrahimoğlu.

The prosecution office claims at the end of the indictment that “along with the columns that include criminal content as well as with columns that supplement the purpose and the aims of the organization, even though it is not possible to detect criminal content in them, the suspects have fulfilled their mission within the hierarchy of FETÖ/PDY [Fethullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure].”

With this expression, the prosecution recognizes the fact that “it is undetectable whether [the articles] alone contain criminal content.”

However, the suspects are claimed to have “supplemented the purposes and aims of the organization” with these columns, even though these columns do not include a “criminal factor.”

Since I could not understand this, I inquired and here is the answer I received from the prominent criminal lawyer, Professor Köksal Bayraktar:

“I have never seen such a description, even in the worst indictments I have come across. The prosecutor openly says there is no evidence. There can be no evidence for something that is not a crime under criminal law. This is a vague accusation dominated by ambiguity. There is talk about serving a purpose but without proof of how this purpose was served.”

And finally, the indictment says Şahin Alpay, along with the other suspects, formed a “media power of the armed FETÖ/PDY terrorist organization. They committed the crime of toppling the constitutional order, the government and the parliament in line with the organization’s aims.”

In brief, Alpay is charged with being ‘putschist.’

When we evaluate the indictment, we see seven of Alpay’s columns were mentioned as evidence. These columns were written after the period from Dec. 17-25. There is mention in one of his articles where Alyan claims changes made after the Dec. 17-25 were aimed at curtailing the investigations about corruption.

And finally, there is a column in the indictment calling out to former Turkish President Abdullah Gül that “he needs to not stand by and watch while the developments unfold.” The prosecutor charges Alpay for creating “conflict among institutions” with this article.

Among these, there are articles that include harsh criticism against the government, but, like in Alpay’s article titled “It is a religious war,” articles that also conclude “what has happened in Turkey is not a religious war, but instead the war between the old and new Turkey.”

Ultimately, all the evidence that formed the grounds for “putschist” charges are in the seven columns. And all of them are opinion columns, which should be considered within the frame of freedom of expression and within the borders of criticism.

The problem here, is there is some solid evidence showing that the newspaper, which published these columns, is the voice of the organization that orchestrated the July 15 coup attempt.  

But this is not enough to charge Şahin Alpay as a coup suspect. 

He also said during the trial that started this week that until July 15, he was not aware of the dark side of this movement that was involved in illegal activities.

He continued to criticize himself:

“For someone who has defended civil authority during my entire career as a writer, has written and spoken against military coups and military tutelage, the indication of the involvement of some members of the Gülen movement in the July 15 coup attempt shocked me as a liberal democrat and drowned me in a deep sense of delusion …

If there was a judicial decision that the Gülen movement was a criminal organization, I would not have continued to write for the Zaman newspaper for a day … If I thought they would have taken part in a military coup attempt, I would never have written for the Zaman newspaper. I condemn the July 15 coup attempt and because of this I regret writing for Zaman. I have been incredibly misled for not seeing the dark side of this movement …” he said.

Alpay’s words reflect a genuine and sincere self-criticism. Besides, who has never made a mistake?

We have to request for our colleagues to at least have a trial without detention.