Trial into Gulen movement’s ‘media arm’ begins in Turkey

Journalist and former singer Atilla Tas

The trial into the ‘media arm’ of the Gulenist movement, alleged by the Turkish government to have orchestrated last year’s failed coup attempt, has begun in Istanbul with a total of 29 suspects.

The hearing of the case was held in Istanbu’s Caglayan Courthouse on 27 March with the participation of 25 detained suspects and two other suspects who are currently being tried without detention. Two of the suspects are on the run from the authorities.

The suspects were detained in a major crackdown the government launched against Fethullah Gulen’s perceived supporters in all sectors of society, from the bureaucracy to the army in the public sector, and from businesspeople to journalists in the private sector.

Singer Atilla Tas, Oguz Usluer, Unal Tanik, Ufuk Sanlı and Hanim Busra Erdal are among those being tried, as well as Said Sefa, one of the fugitives suspected of managing a Twitter account called ‘fuatavni’, which was branded a propaganda tool for the followers of the US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The 25 suspects attended their hearings with their lawyers, and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies Mahmut Tanal, Sezgin Tanrikulu and Safak Pavey were also present in the audience to watch the proceedings.

Prosecutor Murat Caglak from the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office’s Terror and Organized Crime Bureau sought aggravated life sentence for Sefa over “attempting to remove the government of the Turkish Republic” and “partially or completely preventing them from carrying out their duties, using force and violence,” in the indictment accepted by the Istanbul Penal Court.

In addition, Caglak sought up to 22.5 years in prison for Sefa on charges of “running an armed terrorist organization.”

Up to a 15-year prison sentence is sought on charges of “being a member of an armed terrorist organization” for Tas, who was a columnist for the daily Meydan; Tanik, the owner of the now closed Rotahaber website and 26 other journalists.

Asked about his profession, Tas said that “he was a singer in the past,” but said he was now arrested over his journalism. And when asked a question about his monthly income, he said “I’m currently in jail. I can’t earn money.”

The hearings are expected to continue until 31 March.