The Ninth Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals ratified a life-time imprisonment sentence against Hatice Duman, the editor-in-chief of Atılım newspaper, just as it overturned a sentence of 18 years and nine months of imprisonment for journalist Necati Abay who was standing trial in the same suit.
The specially authoried 12th High Criminal Court in Istanbul had sentenced Abay, a former Atılım editor and the spokesman for the Solidarity with Arrested Journalists Platform (TGDP,) for being the manager of a terrorist organization despite the lack of any evidence and on the grounds of the court's "legal opinion."
The Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that Abay should be penalized for being a member and not the manager of a terrorist organization.
Lawyer Özlem Gümüştaş told bianet they were yet to learn about the verdicts against the other suspects in the case, namely Ali Gül Alkaya, Ahmet Doğan, Güllüzar Erman and Hasan Özcan whose fates will only come to light after the Supreme Court of Appeals pens down its reasoned decision.
"A blow on the freedom of press"
Abay said the decision of the Supreme Court of Appeals represented a massive blow against the freedom of speech in a written statement, adding that he was also among the plaintiffs who was involved in a suit against Turkey in the case of Sedat Selim Ay.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) had sentenced Turkey due to the shortcomings in its investigation against Sedat Selim Ay, a police officer who was appointed as the Deputy Chief of Istanbul Police and the Anti-Terror Department despite allegations that he was involved in previous acts of torture.
"[They] are promoting torturers while punishing those who get them convicted. Through this decision, the state is showing me the way either toward an F-Type prison or to exile and want to silence me under any circumstance," Abay said.
Abay also added that the TGDP believed the appeals court's decision against the two journalists was politically motivated.
"[As the TGDP,] we are calling on all individuals and institutions who advocate the freedom of press, and primarily professional journalist institutions and human rights defenders, to show [their reaction] to this unfair decision," he said.
Abay first began to stand trial at the now-defunct Istanbul Fourth State Security Court (DGM) with a demand for life-time imprisonment on the charge of attempting to overturn the constitutional order by force of arms. He was released pending trial during the first hearing on Oct. 3, 2003, however.
The specially authorized 12th High Criminal Court then sentenced Duman, Alkaya, Doğan and Erman to life-time imprisonment, while Özcan and Abay received a sentence of 18 years and nine months behind bars in accordance with article 168/1 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) in connection with allegations of being a manager of a terrorist organization.
39 year old Erman, who is currently residing at the Gebze Women's Prison in Istanbul, was accused of robbing a bank and stealing a weapon. Suspect Alkaya's testimony was advanced in court as evidence of these allegations, but Alkaya told the court that he had testified under torture. The court simply ignored his plea, however.
Journalist and bianet writer Füsun Erdoğan had also penned an article about Duman with whom she had spent time inside the Gebze Women's Closed Prison:
"Hatice was born [in the eastern province of Malatya] on April 5, 1974. Her family had moved to [the southeastern province] of Antep due to economic reasons. She finished elementary and middle school in Antep. She graduated from Trakya University's Vocational School of Higher Education in 1996. She began working as a reporter for Atılım the same year, and in 1997 she started working at the chief editor's desk."
"She explains her situation as follows: 'The state employed all its violence and repression to prevent us from perceiving, seeing and writing the truth. All the issues we published were confiscated, and we were prevented from following the news. Our cameras and recorders were broken. They seized our computers. They filed suits against the confiscated issues of our [newspaper. The suspects] received sentences up to hundreds of years in consequence of these trials."
"Their homes were raided on April 9, 2003 at around 16:00. They depicted Hatice as the other female [culprit] they were searching for in those two robberies, while they also portrayed Erman as a partner in crime through a testimony the police wrote down and which her back-then husband had signed under torture!" (AS)
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